Gambling timeline in new jersey
Gambling has existed for more than a few centuries in New Jersey. Before it was banned in 1844, lotteries were common in the state. It has even financed military wars to enhance its weapons purchasing power, and it has also financed the building of the now Rutgers University and Princeton University, both located within New Jersey’s borders. But what started it all, and how did New Jersey become the state that has been a pioneer in land-based and online gambling that everyone knows of today?
It all began with horse racing. Existing since the 1830s, the Freehold Raceway was the first horse race track in the United States. The Monmouth County Agricultural Society also used Freehold Raceway for ceremonial events from 1854. However, in 1894, New Jersey legislators brought up a bill banning pool betting. It was officially in 1897 that a referendum was held to amend the constitution of New Jersey to ban all forms of commercial gambling.
Between 1894 to 1939, it was quite unclear whether gambling was truly banned, as churches and other organizations held public bingos, and even horse race betting continued. In 1939, though, Horse Race Betting was legalized once again, which began a new era of gambling history in New Jersey. 1953 saw the referendum of the people re-legalizing churches and other non-profit associations to conduct bingos and raffle draws.
In 1970, the New Jersey State Lottery was created, and by 1975, the first New Jersey Lottery game was launched – aptly named "Pick-It." But come 1976, a referendum of the state legalized casinos but restricted them within the confines of Atlantic City. In 1978, the first casino, Resorts Casino Hotel, opened in New Jersey.
In 2006, there was a shutdown of state government activities. This was due to the standoff between the then Governor and the legislators of New Jersey. As a result, Atlantic City suffered a backlash and has not fully recovered as of 2021.
Meanwhile, it was in 2012 that a bill was passed allowing sports betting to be legal in New Jersey except for college sports. However, it faced an uphill battle once again, as there were appeals and suits set up amongst sports associations to counter the bill. As a result, the Court faced many challenges in settling the dispute between the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and the 2012 bill.
It wasn’t until 2018 that the Supreme Court settled the constitutional issues and declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) 1992 unconstitutional. Following the decision made by the New Jersey Supreme Court, Governor Phil Murphy assented to Assembly Bill 4111, making Sports betting legal. In August 2018, premier online sports betting officially took place.
As it relates to online gambling, the struggle for its enforcement was tough as New Jersey legislators first passed it in 2011. However, it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie based on his concern about the risk of nightclubs and cafes infiltrating the legislative loophole.
Governor Chris Christie then signed a revised bill in 2013, recognizing the legal age to gamble in Atlantic City as 21. The bill also increased the online gambling tax to 15% for participating casinos. In addition, certain technologies were incorporated to secure compliance with the bill - like GPS tracking to confirm the location and device used to gamble.
Gradually, online casino businesses began to open, and by 2017, about 12 casinos were focusing on online gambling. However, Atlantic City has held the casino gambling monopoly of New Jersey since 1976, and this decision was maintained to avoid the bankruptcy of casinos and prevent high competition.
All in all, though, New Jersey has shown that progress can indeed be made, both in land-based and online casino gambling in all its forms, from online sports betting to online poker and even lotteries and bingo. It has proven that both land-based and online casino gambling can exist side by side and even profit from one another. The future looks promising, and New Jersey is a state that bears a close watch in the coming years.