Today, Governor Christie announced New Jersey will forge ahead with implementing sports betting in our state's casinos and horse tracks. By a margain of 2-1, NJ voters passes a referendum last fall that voiced support for allowing sports betting. This could turn out to be one of the most profitable decisions made by any governor in New Jersey's history.
Think about it...the illegal sports betting market is estimated by experts to be approximately a $500 BILLION dollar a year industry. Think of all the taxable revenue lost each year by New Jersey to illegal sports betting bookies and online gambling. Now that NJ will legalize the betting, it will have the ability to tax sports bets placed at the tracks and casinos. The amount of taxable revenue that NJ and its municipalities will be able to put in their coffers to use to fund much needed programs and lower property taxes is enormous.
Further, the horse racing industry is currently notoriously depressed and, despite the recent building of shopping outlets across the street from the Atlantic City casinos, the casino industry has also fallen on hard times. Think of the extra volume of patrons that will flock in droves to the tracks and casinos now that NJ will allow legalized sports betting. It will be a boom for both. While both industries have fallen on hard times, neither are going anywhere. So we might as well have them both being healthy rather than sparsely patronized, as the less people who frequent those types of establishments, traditionally correlates to higher crime.
Don't believe this will have much of a change on NJ and its economy? Talk to Vegas. This is Las Vegas' worst nightmare. If you have ever been to Las Vegas during the NFL playoffs, March Madness NCAA Tournament, etc., you know that the vast majority of those people patronizing the casinos are there to bet on sports. They make pilgrimages from all over the world to stay at the hotels, eat at the restaurants and of course, bet on the games. Premiere sporting events are the biggest revenue weekends of the year for Las Vegas. Thus, it is anticipated that Nevada will strongly challenge NJ's attempt to legalize betting. After all, it is a lot easier for east coasters to drive to AC to place their bets than fly out to Vegas.
When I say "challenge" I don't really mean it. NJ isn't intending to challenge the federal law currently in place which prohibits sports betting in all states except for Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. Governor Christie is smartly going to let the federal government try to stop NJ. It is a brilliant move with NJ on the offensive and the suspect, federal law on the defensive. The current ban, if the federal government challenges NJ, is not likely to be upheld by the courts. It is likely to be seen by the courts as unconstitutional since it gives some states gambling rights, but not others.
Since the casinos can be shut down by the federal government if they violate the current federal law, it will have to take a gutsy casino to be the first to take sports bets. But, there is too much money for the casinos to potentially earn in the long-term for them not to ultimately take the chance, especially with the support of the state behind them and the overwhelming support of the majority of NJ's citizens as well. It's an idea that took far too long. But, better late than never. This is great news for NJ all-around.