New Jersey has a storied history when it comes to gambling. Outside of Nevada, no other state has embraced legal gambling more than the Garden State. Players can enjoy a wide range of gaming choices in New Jersey, including online sports betting at top New Jersey sportsbooks and online casino betting at top New Jersey casino sites.
New Jersey led the fight to have the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a 1992 federal ban on sports betting, overturned, and succeeded in 2018 after a prolonged legal battle. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down PASPA, clearing the way for New Jersey to start taking sports bets shortly after the decision.
Early Gambling in New Jersey
The earliest records of gambling in New Jersey date back to the 1700s, when lotteries were used to help finance the military during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. In addition, funds from the lotteries assisted in the construction of Rutgers University and Princeton University. In 1844, lotteries were banned in New Jersey and would remain illegal for nearly 200 years.
Though it’s hard to pinpoint a specific opening date, in the 1830s, the oldest racetrack in the United States opened, New Jersey’s Freehold Raceway. In 1870, the first thoroughbred racing track, Monmouth Park, was opened in Eatontown, New Jersey. Just years later, all gambling was deemed illegal in The Garden State.
This ban on gambling lasted from 1894-1939, though it seems that it was largely unenforced. During that era, gamblers could play bingo at churches and nonprofits, slot machines and sports betting were popular statewide, and Freehold Raceway reportedly operated without pause. Bingo and raffles were re-legalized for nonprofits in 1953, and racetrack gambling in New Jersey was officially re-legalized in 1939.
The New Jersey Lottery was formed in 1970. Innovatively, the New Jersey Lottery created the Pick-It game, now known as the Pick-3, the first legal lottery game in the U.S. that allows players to choose their own numbers.
Legislation to legalize casino gambling statewide was struck down in 1974. However, two years later, voters supported the legalization of casinos but only in Atlantic City. The first casino to open in New Jersey—and the first legal casino built outside of Nevada in the States—was the Resorts Casino Hotel, which still operates today. There are currently nine casinos in Atlantic City.
New Jersey Becomes National Leader in Online Gambling Fight
In 2012, legislation was signed that legalized sports betting in the state for both college and professional sports, though bettors can’t wager on college events that are held in The Garden State or any out-of-state games featuring New Jersey college teams. The law is superseded by the federal ban from 1992, and a long legal battle continues.
In 2013, New Jersey became the first state in the country to legalize online casino gaming. By 2017, a dozen different online casino brands offered hundreds of games for online players, more than any other state. New Jersey continues to be a leader in the gambling industry, legalizing Daily Fantasy Sports in 2018. Online betting is now offered in New Jersey at casinos, sportsbooks and racetracks.
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