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Happy Birthday New Jersey Legal Sports Betting Industry

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Happy Birthday New Jersey Legal Sports Betting Industry
A general view at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

The US legal sports betting industry has exploded in size since the 2018 US Supreme Court decision to overturn the PASPA and its blanket ban on a legal sports betting scene. From humble beginnings that started with one state, Nevada, to now, when nearly half of the US states have their own platform, things have really changed.

The state that started the push for broad US legal sports wagering, New Jersey hit a major milestone on Friday with the 3-year anniversary of Gov. Phil Murphy officially signing NJ sports betting into law. Monday marked the 3-year anniversary of the state taking its first legal sports bet.

Let’s take a look back at the evolution of the New Jersey sports betting market that has become the gold-standard in the US scene, starting with a little history and ending with a few projections as to where the New Jersey market could go.

The State That Started It All

The plight of the legal sports betting scene in New Jersey spans back to 2009 when then-governor Chris Christie pushed the Supreme Court on their support of the PASPA that made sports betting in the US, outside of Nevada, illegal.

The battle involved not only the Supreme Court but also North American professional leagues that were at the time vehemently against any sort of gambling on their sports. Their fear was the “integrity of the game.

Thanks in part to a little persistence by New Jersey lawmakers, the PASPA was officially overturned on May 14, 2018, by a 6-3 margin and it didn’t take long for New Jersey to take advantage and launch its own legal sports betting platform. It came exactly one month after the Supreme Court decision.

What New Jersey Has Grown Into

New Jersey was one of the first jurisdictions to welcome legal sports betting into their state and surprisingly has experience few hiccups since. Having an existing gambling scene in Atlantic City may have helped iron out or even anticipate any kinks that were sure to come.

The Garden State market started out with just retail facilities but within two months had a robust mobile platform as well, one that has become the envy of every other competing jurisdiction in the country.

As it stands, New Jersey is home to 12 retail sports betting facilities and 20 online platforms with still room to expand. Betting providers were quick to recognize the value of the New Jersey market and now, all of the top-end names have a presence there including BetMGM, William Hill, Caesars and the two DFS giants that cut their teeth in the Jersey market and have become dominant players within the entire legal gambling space.

Putting Numbers to the Words

It is pretty hard to fathom the exponential growth of the New Jersey legal sports betting scene without seeing the actual year-over-year numbers.

New Jersey’s sports betting handle in 2018, although operating for just six months during that year was $1.25 billion. In 2019, the first full year of operation, that number swelled to $4.58 billion and last year, 2020, the Garden State set a new standard with its sportsbooks bringing in just over $6 billion, despite COVID-19 seriously affecting the overall market.

Revenues have also skyrocketed year-to-year. In 2018, New Jersey sportsbooks made $94 million. In 2019 revenues came in at close to $300 million and in 2020, sportsbook revenues were reported to be $395.8 million.

One of the big beneficiaries of the legal sports betting platform is New Jersey state and local coffers that have greatly benefitted from tax revenues from the successful platform. Tax revenue paid by Jersey sportsbooks was $11,597,775 in 2018 and grew to $39,594,127 in 2019 and was an impressive $50,891,397 in 2020.

What’s Left to Accomplish

New Jersey currently owns all of the major jurisdictional record in the US legal sports betting scene. The trick is maintaining their position as the unquestioned King of the Bet-Friendly states.

The state’s $6 billion yearly handle for 2020 eclipsed the previous mark of $5.4 billion in sports bets reported in Nevada in 2019 and their December 2020 handle of $996.3 billion is easily the best that any state has ever recorded in the US market. And it isn’t close.

If a rumored change to the policy around college sports betting in New Jersey comes to fruition, more records will fall, and fall easily. Currently college sports are prohibited for teams that make New Jersey home.

So, all eyes will be on September and the start of the NFL season to see if New Jersey can hit the $1 billion monthly handle mark. While the Garden State’s status as the top betting jurisdiction in the country doesn’t appear to be under threat, the impressive records the state has already set are.

New Jersey has been the envy of the entire US legal sports betting scene. Look for them to continue down that path and for the state to remain the model for success in the broader US scene.