By Jay Cook |
OCEANPORT – Get ready to place your bets.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill legalizing sports betting statewide Monday afternoon, four days after state lawmakers put the bill on his desk.
While it’s anticipated sports betting revenues could help revitalize Atlantic City’s casino industry and the state horse racing industry, the biggest benefactor could be Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, which hedged its future on the influx of sports betting revenue to save it.
Murphy and track operator and owner Dennis Drazin will take New Jersey’s first legal bets there at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.
“Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey,” Murphy said in a statement Monday.
Drazin said “today is a great day for New Jersey.” Monmouth Park had been geared up to commence sports betting almost immediately after the Supreme Court shot down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 on May 14. Monmouth Park has funneled nearly $3 million into building and expanding the William Hill sportsbook on site.
“I look forward to the Governor joining us at Monmouth Park Racetrack on Thursday morning to usher in a new era for New Jersey by placing the first bet,” Drazin said in a statement.
With the bill passage comes excitement in Oceanport. Monmouth Park the borough’s largest employer and taxpayer and now it can compete with racetracks on a national level, said Oceanport Borough Council President Joe Irace.
“We’re very excited,” Irace said. “This is great news for New Jersey, Monmouth County and Oceanport. This goes a long way to preserving and protecting horse racing in Monmouth Park. It’s great news for everybody.”
State lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate simultaneously passed similar sports wagering legalization bills on Thursday but Drazin and other track operators didn’t open their sports books until they had a blessing from Murphy.
Bettors must be 21 or older to wager and cannot bet on New Jersey high school or college events involving Garden State teams or even in the state.
Although the NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are over and done, the Major League Baseball season is well underway, and the FIFA World Cup will begin later this week.
“I’m just super excited,” said Irace. “Really happy for Monmouth Park and Dennis Drazin who put up the fight from Day One on this. Everyone counted him out on this and he was the last man standing.”
Read more about the legalization of sports betting in the print edition of The Two River Times later this week.
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