NJ governor: 'Dream of legalized sports betting' begins Thursday

The wait is over -- New Jersey sports betting begins Thursday.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Monday allowing the state's racetracks and casinos to begin offering sports betting later in the week.

"Today, we're finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey," Murphy said in a statement Monday afternoon. "I'm thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111 because it means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy."

Betting will begin at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at New Jersey racetrack Monmouth Park. The Borgata in Atlantic City plans to open its sportsbook for business at 11 a.m., Thursday, pending receipt of final approval ledgers.

"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," said Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development LLC, operators of Monmouth Park.

Retired state Sen. Ray Lesniak, who spearheaded the state's fight for legal sports betting, also hopes to be at the front of the line to place an early bet.

"Fifty dollars on France to win the World Cup," Lesniak said. "That's big-time for me." The World Cup kicks off Thursday.

New Jersey is slated to open for business nearly a month after the United States Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the federal ban on state-sponsored sports betting.

New Jersey will be the second state, joining Delaware, to offer legal sports betting since the landmark Supreme Court ruling. Nevada had been the only state allowed to offer a full menu of sports bets for the last 26 years.

"We led the fight for sports betting and it is now happening," New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement. "We will see sports betting get up and running and we intend to see that New Jersey continues to be a leader with a sports gaming industry that thrives. Our efforts will pay off."

Atlantic City's nine casinos, the state's three racetracks and sites of former racetracks may offer sports betting under the legislation.

The New Jersey Racing Commission has scheduled an executive session Wednesday. During the meeting, the commission will consider adoption of emergency rules "applicable to the issuance of a sports wagering license to a racetrack permit holder," according to a notice posted on the commission's website.

The Meadowlands, which has partnered with Betfair US to operate its sportsbook, told ESPN last week that it plans to be offering sports betting at some point this summer. Betfair's sports betting operations are expected to be under the FanDuel brand. Betfair recently agreed to purchase FanDuel, the daily fantasy operator.

Daily fantasy operator DraftKings also plans to offer sports betting in New Jersey. It has partnered with Resorts Casino in Atlantic City. DraftKings announced Monday that it has applied for a New Jersey sports betting license.

To start, all bets must be placed in person. Mobile sports betting is legal under the new legislation and will be available in the future.

A full menu of betting options will be offered on professional and collegiate sports, except for any games involving New Jersey schools, like Rutgers and Seton Hall, for example, or collegiate events that take place inside the state. Betting on high school sports is prohibited.

Monmouth Park had hoped to begin taking sports bets on Memorial Day, but was asked by the governor to wait until everything was put in place. The New Jersey Legislature unanimously passed the bill on June 7 and sent it to the governor's desk. Murphy reviewed the bill and signed it Monday afternoon.

New Jersey endured a nearly six-year courtroom battle with the NCAA, NFL and other major sports leagues that reportedly cost the state $9 million in legal fees before ultimately prevailing in the Supreme Court.

"It's been a frustrating a month since the Supreme Court ruled in our favor," said Lesniak. "This is a big relief. I'm looking forward to it."