Las Vegas damned! New Jersey is the online gambling capital of America. Though this claim may not exactly be official, as it stands, New Jersey is second only to Nevada in the burgeoning world of sports betting.
It is crazy to imagine how far New Jersey has come. Until the late 70s, gambling, playing slots and the blackjack tables were never a pastime for most people, leave alone the residents of New Jersey. If you wanted to test lady luck, the only way to do it was to plan out a trip to Nevada or settle for the nearby Atlantic City.
But boy have things changed! Online betting is a culture that has rapidly gained fame and taken root in New Jersey. Today, casino visits have turned from atypical expeditions to be enjoyed once in a blue moon to accepted leisure activities. And online gambling is at the helm of it all!
So how did New Jersey become the unofficial online gambling capital of America?
The early days
Legal sports betting in New Jersey has only been legal for about 2 years. However, the growth that has occurred in this short period can only be described as remarkable. It helps that New Jersey has always boasted some of the most lenient gambling laws in the country. Lotteries were some of the most common ways to gamble until they were abolished in 1844.
In 1897, a referendum was approved to outlaw all types of gambling in the state. Social gambling, nonetheless, would occur behind closed doors. For instance, number games, slot machines, bookmarking and even bingo tournaments held by churches and other organizations have always been mainstays in the community.
Sweeping changes start in the world of gambling
In 1939, the government re-legalized racetrack gambling but amusement games were not allowed again in the state until 1959. In a power move that saw residents vote in favor of more gambling options, the New Jersey Lottery was reinstated.
In 1974, attempts were made to legalize gambling through the state but only Atlantic City was granted the authority to join Nevada as the only 2 states with authorized casino gambling. By 1975, the 1st lottery game in the country that allowed participants to select their numbers was introduced by New Jersey.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act enters the picture
In 2011, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act or the UIGEA was signed. The UIGEA prohibits any banks in the country from processing any financial transactions deposited by unauthorized online gambling institutions. This bill, in actual fact, helped to shut down the online poker industry in our country.
Later that year, the Department of Justice passed anti-gambling legislation that would set the ball rolling for remarkable changes to occur in the industry. Thanks to this legislation, the Wire Act of 1961 was reinterpreted allowing all states to individually standardize online gambling as they saw fit. Under this reform, New Jersey, as well as several other states including Nevada and Delaware, legalized the industry, leading the way for other states to follow suit.
The advent of sports betting
In February of 2013, Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor at the time signed bill A2578/S1565 that gave licenses to online gaming sites as long as these sites partnered up with brick and mortar casinos in Atlantic City. The state legislature had been lobbying for this legislature to pass since 2010 but it had been vetoed severally until proper amendments were made.
By July, all the casinos in Atlantic City had applied for licenses to launch their online betting sites with Caesars Entertainment leading the charge. 6 of the existing 12 Atlantic City casinos, namely the Golden Nugget, Caesars, Tropicana, Borgata and 2 of the Trump casinos launched their websites.
Mobile options become available
By the end of the year, online gaming sites available had been granted authority to operate 24 hours a day. The number of player accounts created shot up tremendously causing a spike in demand for mobile options. Although online mobile options became available, users often reported technical issues such as poor interfaces, software instability, as well as connection issues.
It would take a while before these mobile offerings would improve, which further allowed gaming websites on PC to prosper. In an attempt to improve operations and encourage more subscribers, the three prime poker operators begun offering customers free Wi-Fi adaptors aimed at solving geopolitical concerns.
Soon after, several poker rooms started offering online eWallet services as an alternative for making deposits. As these changes were being implemented, a series of brick and mortar casinos were shut down including Trump Plaza, which seemed to stifle the growth of the online gaming industry.
Despite the growing pains, online gaming seemed to take off in New Jersey. The websites available provided gamblers with ways to make fair revenue through the year, which is what helped to make New Jersey the formidable gaming state that it is today.
Sports betting is legalized in New Jersey
In 2018, just ahead of the World Cup, Governor Philip D. Murphy signed a bill to legalize sports betting in New Jersey. This move ended a more than 8-year ordeal that allowed New Jersey to set up its sports betting sites without partnering up with casinos in Atlantic City. The institutionalization of sports betting in the state had been years in the making as the state took part in a long legal battle that culminated in the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court.
This ruling repealed a 1992 federal law that prevented almost all states from setting up sports betting firms. Before this ruling, Nevada and to a limited scope Oregon, Delaware and Montana were the only states that allowed sports betting. As a result of this landmark ruling, New Jersey cities such as Atlantic City are now on the up and up after years of continued struggle.
While the gaming revenue in New Jersey continues to prosper and grow, the revenue in most other states including Las Vegas continues to drop. If such once-mighty gambling states keep up with their decline patterns and rates of growth, then New Jersey is poised to outshine Las Vegas to become the foremost gambling state in the next few years.
No other state, where sports betting has been a legal institution for years, offers the myriad options available for mobile sports and online betting other than New Jersey. And the state is slated to continue this trajectory of growth as technology continues to improve.