By NJToday Contributor Dick Sheeran
Now that New Jersey voters have said “yes” to sports betting for Atlantic City’s 11 casinos and four race tracks, what happens now?
The favorable vote came as no surprise. Most of us in New Jersey are used to legalized gambling. The Garden State was one of the early ones to start a lottery. Then in 1978, New Jersey became the second biggest casino market in the country after Las Vegas.
Sports Books, or betting parlors, are a major attraction in Vegas. They are part of the “action” — the razzle dazzle atmosphere of casinos. They would give Atlantic City’s 11 gambling houses a boost that’s sorely needed after several years of declining “action.”
It is no secret that millions of dollars are bet on games. Indeed a lot of fans are fans because they have money on the games, not because they adore the Jets or Giants or Eagles. Fans have access to information about game favorites, underdogs, odds and point spreads.
If a good chunk of those fans placed their bets in AC casinos, it would mean not only additional gaming revenue, but they would also be dining in the town’s restaurants, staying in hotels and generally adding to the razzle dazzle.
Right now, gamblers can bet on horse races in several, but not all, AC casinos. It is called simulcasting. Horse races from around the country are piped into the betting rooms. Betting windows are already in place.
If betting on sports teams becomes a reality, you can bet ALL the casinos would open Sports Books.
The revenue would be a plus to the casinos, but would not rival money raked in by slots and table games. It would simply add another reason to attract bettors now going elsewhere. While they are in AC, they can spend their money on hotels, food and drink, and — oh yes — shopping.
The vote last Tuesday gets the wheels turning to make sports betting a reality. The voters gave the legislature a green light to try and make that happen.
The sports betting game is not over by a long shot. For one thing, federal law currently permits sports betting ONLY in four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
Vegas and Nevada casinos have raked in millions over the years on sports bets, especially on Super Bowl sundays. There you can place bets on individual games.
Delaware is different. There you can only bet parlays, meaning you have to guess the winners of more than one game to win money. This has cut down on potential revenue.
Whatever is planned for Atlantic City and the race tracks, it should make sure a bettor can place his or her money on individual contests. This is where the real sports betting money is.
To bring sports betting to New Jersey, the current federal law would have to be modified by Congress or overturned in the courts. Neither is a sure bet.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey General Assembly must pass a bill to authorize sports betting in the state now that the voters have given their approval. This should be the easy part.
Getting Congressional or court approval is the high stakes bet.
Dick Sheeran is a veteran television news reporter and former anchor of CBS3-TV, Philadelphia.