“Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, as he signed the Garden State’s sports betting bill into law on Monday afternoon.
Murphy’s John Hancock finally put to bed a seven-year legal battle that culminated in the US Supreme Court’s rejection of PASA, the federal law that prohibited state-sanctioned sports betting in all but four American states.
New Jersey’s efforts have paved the way for all 50 states to now potentially pass laws regulating sports betting within their own borders. Industry analysts expect that the majority eventually will.
The signature also allays fears that Murphy was sitting on the bill for political reasons, with one theory being it was to gain an edge in an ongoing budget stand-off with State Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Ready to Go
The bill was passed by both chambers of the State legislature on Thursday and several of the state’s racetracks and casinos were poised to begin taking bets the moment the bill became law.
Monmouth Park race track was chomping at the bit, having had its William Hill sports bar ready to go since 2014, when only a federal injunction prevented it from opening.
Local media reported that the track had considered going ahead without the governor’s signature, as the delay was causing it to miss out on big betting events like the Belmont Stakes, the NBA Finals, the Mets vs. Yankees Subway Series, and the World Cup.
The race track was urged on by lawmakers, too.
“There is no practical reason why Monmouth Park cannot start accepting wagers while that’s happening – the sky won’t fall, lions won’t roam the streets, locusts won’t ravage our fields,” Monmouth County’s State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon wrote in an official statement on the SenateNJ.com website.
“The Governor is standing before two choices in this scenario: either he’s the hero or he’s the villain. There is simply no in-between. So far, he is choosing, inexplicably and disappointingly, to be the latter. I’m holding out hope that he heads in the other direction and quickly realizes this was a blatantly wrong move,” O’Scanlon posted before Murphy signed the bill into law late in the day on Monday.
Racing Commission Pushes Back
But a swift missive from Racing Commission Director Frank Zanzuccki put the kibosh on those plans, warning that any track that took bets before the governor signed the bill would “jeopardize its ability to become licensed to offer sports betting.”
Meanwhile, regional journalists were getting itchy fingers. On Sunday, the victory of “Sports Betting,” a horse, at the first race at Monmouth Park, prompted the header “Sports Betting came to Monmouth Park Sunday – sort of” from the local Asbury Park Press.
Murphy felt to compelled to call a presser last Friday, in which he called for patience, reminded lawmakers he was a supporter of sports betting, and insisted he was not sitting on the bill.
“I’m thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111 because it means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy,” he added Monday.