Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport and the Borgata in Atlantic City are officially in the business of sports betting. On Thursday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy made his way to the new sportsbook at Monmouth Park where he had the honors of placing the state’s first ever legal sports bet.

Actually, he placed a handful of bets on Thursday. During his first stop of the day at Monmouth Park, Governor Murphy booked $20 on Germany to win the World Cup and $20 on the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup next year.

Governor Murphy then headed over to the Borgata in Atlantic City to place two more wagers: $20 on the Mets to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in Thursday’s game and $20 on Martin Truex, Jr. to win the Daytona 500.

Here, you can see the governor ringing in sports betting at Monmouth Park:

The governor was able to place those bets thanks to previously adding his signature to the final piece of legislation necessary to make sports betting a reality in New Jersey. That legislation put in place a few basic regulations such as enforcing a minimum age of 21 to bet and authorizing the Division of Gaming Enforcement to promulgate additional regulations as necessary.

Thursday’s bets represent the culmination of a lengthy and expensive legal battle that saw New Jersey challenge the constitutionality of the federal law prohibiting all but four states from authorizing sports betting.

New Jersey took the first step of what would become a long journey way back in 2011. That year, the state held a public referendum asking voters if they’d like to legalize sports betting. The referendum easily passed and lawmakers submitted a legalization bill the next year.

New Jersey’s 2012 sports betting law was challenged by the NCAA, NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB on the basis that federal law at the time prohibited states from legalizing sports betting. This kicked off a legal battle that would play out over a period of years before finally going all the way to the Supreme Court.

Last month, the Supreme Court brought the case to a close after ruling in favor of New Jersey. It was a major victory not just for New Jersey, but for states across the nation interested in legalizing sports betting. In fact, New Jersey is now just the second state to legalize sports betting.

Delaware beat New Jersey to the punch by about a week. Although it was New Jersey that headed the legal battle for sports betting, Delaware was able to move first due to already having laws on the books allowing the state to authorize sports betting if federal law changes. Delaware’s racetracks and lawmakers wasted no time getting the state up and running after news of the Supreme Court decision broke.

Back in New Jersey, Monmouth Park officials had been stressing over the past month that they were ready to go live as soon as the state was ready. Monmouth Park did not disappoint as it took the state’s first legal sports wager on Thursday.

The Borgata in Atlantic City had also mentioned moving as quickly as possible, although it wasn’t until today that we saw just how ready they were in Atlantic City after booking a couple of bets for Governor Murphy. Other casinos have also expressed a keen interest in offering sports betting, but none have given firm timelines. All are in various stages of preparing staff and making the necessary changes to begin booking wagers.

Online Sports Betting in New Jersey

Thursday’s action was limited to bets placed in person at Monmouth Park and the Borgata, but online betting is in the works. The regulations Governor Murphy signed on Monday call for a 30-day waiting period before licensed operators may begin accepting wagers over the internet.

That means we’ll be waiting until at least July 11th before online sports betting begins in New Jersey. That is the earliest possible date in theory, but the actual timeline also depends on how quickly New Jersey’s online gambling sites can add sports betting to the menu.

New Jersey already has online casinos and poker sites, so it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to add sports betting capabilities over the next 30 days. Each online casino in New Jersey is partnered with an experienced software provider – with many of those providers experienced in managing sports betting in other regulated markets such as the UK. Considering that, it is likely we’ll be seeing online wagers sooner rather than later in New Jersey.

Killing a Black Market

The legalization of sports betting in New Jersey also represents a significant blow to the massive black market for illegal sports betting served by offshore sportsbooks. Since the late 1990s, online sportsbooks headquartered in countries such as Costa Rica and Panama have flouted US law by catering to customers in the USA without access to legal sportsbooks nearby.

The offshore sports betting industry was at times estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year as it tapped into American’s demand for a way to bet on sports. Despite the widely-known financial risks that accompany betting at unregulated websites, Americans with no other options at home bit the bullet and risked their hard-earned money at online sportsbooks that do not follow US law or pay US taxes.

Wayne Parry of the Associated Press spoke with two customers at Monmouth Park today who know from first-hand experience how messy it can be doing business with offshore betting sites. One customer explained that an unnamed betting site simply refused to cash him out when he was ready to claim his winnings while another said he took a bet at 40-1 odds, which was then changed to 4-1 odds after he’d already sent in his money.

Now, customers in New Jersey and Delaware have other options. Neither state has initiated online sports betting, but that too will come to the US. Offshore sportsbooks will be feeling the pinch sooner or later as legal betting options spread across the nation. The shift to legal sports betting won’t happen overnight, but the black market’s best days are likely behind it.

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