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Last updateThu, 14 Mar 2019 12pm

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Legalized Betting Comes to New Jersey

Legalized Betting NJThe legalization of sports betting in New Jersey this past summer has brought a new audience to the once exclusively horse racing location of the Monmouth Park Racetrack, which opened the William Hill sportsbook on June 14. 

The United States Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law passed by Congress a quarter century ago that forced states to keep sports gambling bans on the books this May. The justices ruled in 6-3 decision, clearing the way for other states to join Nevada in allowing bets to be placed on individual games.

“Now that the live racing season is over, sports betting has transformed Monmouth Park into a 12-month facility – taking bets seven days a week on pro football, basketball, hockey and much more,” said Brian Skirka, Marketing Manager at Monmouth Park. 

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy kicked off the opening of Monmouth Park sportsbook in Oceanport by placing the first legal sports bet in the state on June 14. 

Murphy placed two $20 wagers respectively on Germany to win the World Cup as well as the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup. 

“We had been fighting the sports betting battle for many years and were prepared to a certain extent leading up to the first day of wagering,” said Skirka. “There were certain wirings and equipment that by law we couldn’t receive until the actual Supreme Court ruling, so set-up for those things took a few weeks after the ruling.”  

According to Skirka, Monmouth Park has been waiting for this legislation to be passed for a very long time and they were more than ready to go once the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing sports betting. “Sports betting is just another piece of the puzzle that we’re trying to put together at Monmouth Park in terms of creating a one-stop-shop entertainment destination at the Jersey Shore,” said Skirka. 

Since the opening of their William Hill sportsbook and correlating sports bar, Monmouth Park has noticed nearly five times as many customers who are now showing up earlier and staying later to place wagers. 

“Now, Monmouth Park is not just a venue for horse racing fans, it is bringing in a whole different clientele to their location,” said Eddy Occhipinti, Associate Athletics Director of Marketing and Sponsorships. “They built a sports bar that is open every day of the year for that purpose, so even if you’re not betting you can go watch sports at the racetrack. It’s becoming more of an overall sports entertainment venue rather than just a regular thoroughbred horse track.” 

Along with the turnover from just an average horse racing track to an all-around sports entertainment capital, the newly passed legislation has also been promising for the economy in New Jersey bringing in new jobs and income for the state, according to Matthew Harmon, a specialist professor of sports communication.

In a bill signed on June 11, Murphy and the state of New Jersey laid the groundwork for towns like Oceanport to tap into sports wagering revenues. Advocates for the new industry are predicting sports betting to boom, and early official estimates from the governor’s office suggest that this first year could generate about $13 million in state tax revenue.

 Harmon noted that the new sports betting market could also potentially reopen jobs for people who want to go work in a casino, at the track, or even just for those who want to be involved with an avenue of the sports world.

“People bet on sports anyways, so if you are a state like New Jersey or Delaware and you have the opportunity to create your own system with jobs and an audience who is already interested then what really is the downside. That was the idea behind the new legislation besides also raising money for the state on people losing,” said Harmon.

All wagering sums realized by a horse racing permit holder, like Monmouth Park, are subject to a 1.25 percent tax. The towns are paid a 0.75 percent cut and the counties can access the remaining 0.50 percent.

Alan Cavaiola, Ph.D., a psychological counseling specialist, believes that gambling addiction is just as dangerous as drug or alcohol addiction.

“Gambling disorders are equally pervasive in American society as well as many other industrialized countries,” said Cavaiola.  “Although Gambling Disorders do not result in deaths as with the opioid crisis, there are reports of suicide deaths related to gambling. This usually occurs when gamblers reach a point of desperation and are unable to pay debts or may be facing prison due to embezzlement or fraud.” 

Researchers have noticed that the progression of gambling disorders is nearly identical to those of substance use disorders. According to Caviola, in the case of gambling addiction, experts consider it to be a three-phase cycle beginning with the Winning Phase, then the Losing Phase, and lastly the Desperation Phase. 

“There’s the Winning Phase in which gamblers focus on their winnings and will downplay any losses. In the Losing Phase, losses begin to mount and at this point, the gambler will begin to chase their losses by becoming obsessed with how to earn money back that they’ve lost. In the Desperation Phase the gambler is trying to pay gambling debts or obtain money to continue gambling which often results in begging family or friends for loans or stealing from them,” elaborated Cavaiola. 

Caviola weighed in on both the pros and cons of the sports betting addition, arguing that the key disadvantage of gambling is that those in the lower econmoic class are the most likely to partake in it.

One student who has been betting underground for years now and even took to becoming an agent himself, has seen firsthand both sides of the sports betting addiction. “I’ve had people underneath me go down thousands of dollars to the point where they have to make payment plans because they don’t have enough money to cover what they have lost,” said the anonymous gambler. “Even I personally have gone down enough money in a week where I had to lie to my parents to send me money just to make the payments on time. It is a helpless feeling.” 

Despite the downsides, Cavaiola does support the legal aspect of gambling knowing that it is going to occur whether it be underground or not. By legalizing sports betting, it allows more money to be allocated by state governments for the treatment of gambling disorders.

Caviola reasons that the recent phenomenon in the world of fantasy sports has also become its own betting income system in itself. This development has offered a promising outlook for the future of sports betting from an economic standpoint.

“People have been betting for a long time, especially with the internet presence and sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings already existing and prospering. All this legislation does is make it easier and more accessible for people,” said Harmon. “It will be huge for New Jersey to inject some life back into casinos, Atlantic City, Monmouth Park, the Meadowlands, and Freehold. Hopefully it will be an all-around positive for the state of New Jersey moving forward.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Jay Cook

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