How NJ transitioned from gambling prohibition to 24/7 mobile access
Less than 50 years ago, no casinos were permitted within New Jersey's borders.
Today, anyone in New Jersey who's over the age of 21 can have 24/7 access to live betting, right in their pocket or purse.
As part of a series of webinars offered during Problem Gambling Awareness Month, on March 24 the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey offered advocates and the public an overview of how things changed so quickly in the Garden State.
NJ voters deny casinos before accepting them
Resorts was the first casino to open in New Jersey. It happened in May 1978, with crowds of people lined up on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, where the gaming hall still operates today.
In 1974, New Jersey residents had voted down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed for casino gambling in any town that wanted it. At that point, U.S. legalized gambling was only permitted in Nevada.
But in 1976, New Jersey voters gave the green light to a proposal on the ballot that allowed for gaming in Atlantic City only, as a "unique tool of urban development."
The New Jersey Casino Control Act was signed into law in June 1977 by Gov. Brendan Byrne.
In its first year, Resorts saw $224.6 million in gross gaming revenue, and won $62.8 million.
By 1980, there were six casinos dotting the bayfront and boardwalk in Atlantic City, according to the CCGNJ webinar presentation by peer recovery specialist Greg Gioe.
A few of those properties are still running, including Bally's and Tropicana.
Gross gaming revenue grew by at least 50% annually from 1978 to 1984, Gioe said.
And in 1984, slot machines overtook table games as the main driver behind casino growth.
"Investors and the casinos themselves really prefer slot machines because the hold is a lot more consistent," Gioe said.
By 1992, casino floors turned into operations that run around the clock every day of the year.
Online betting launches elsewhere
Intercasino, based in Antigua, became the first online casino to take real money bets in 1996, Gioe said.
Online poker with real cash stakes debuted in 1998, through British Columbia-based Planet Poker.
In the early 2000s, poker on TV as entertainment "was all the rage," according to Gioe. During that time, sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were operating in New Jersey.
Those platforms would eventually be shut down by the Department of Justice in 2011, which in the same year allowed states to pass legislation concerning online gambling.
By 2013, online poker would be back in New Jersey, along with online casinos ... legally.
Since then, online casinos in New Jersey have won over $4 billion from bettors, and that figure doesn't include sports betting.
The debut of sports betting
In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for states to make their own decisions on sports wagering.
In June of the same year, live bets on sporting events were being accepted in the Garden State.
Today, you can place a bet on a game in any of Atlantic City's nine casinos, at the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, or Freehold Raceway, or on any one of several online betting platforms.
Revenue from online gambling increased by more than 1,100% from 2014 to 2021, Gioe noted.
"While the casinos are flat or hardly growing, the online market is growing at a very healthy rate," Gioe said.
In 2022, sportsbooks in New Jersey took in more than $10 billion in bets — 94% of those bets were made online.
Dozens of states, plus the District of Columbia, allow sports betting today. Mobile sports betting is permitted in more than 20 states.
Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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