In 1992, Congress enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), also known as the “Bradley Act,” which forbade states to legalize sports betting. This act grandfathered four states that already had laws allowing sports betting Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. In addition an exception was carved out for New Jersey where NJ had a year to legalize betting on sports, because it already had casino gambling for more than a decade. Unfortunately due to the legal environment at the time, New Jersey did not pass law allowing sports betting in the state, and it’s still outlawed by the federal government to this day.
What does that mean for Atlantic City? It’s simple. The city is not allowed to have sportsbooks while the casinos in Las Vegas can. This puts AC in a clear disadvantage when trying to compete for business with Las Vegas especially around Super Bowl weekend and March Madness. These two events fill up hotel rooms all over Vegas with people from the Eastern United States. If Atlantic City had sports betting, there is no doubt that a lot of these travelers would go here instead.
The New Jersey government knows this, and so do the voters. Last year the NJ Senate voted 36-3 and the Assembly voted 54-17 in favor of allowing sports betting in the state. The issue was then put on the November ballot for the general population, and it passed by a margin of almost two to one. Now it is up to the governor and attorney general to file a federal lawsuit to overturn PASPA on the basis that it violates the Constitution by giving an unfair advantage to a few states at the expense of the others.
While New Jersey is pushing to legalize sports betting, this effort only applies to betting in actual sportsbooks and not online. The New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently vetoed a bill that would have let Atlantic City casinos run gambling websites, and we only have to assume that this would apply to sports betting as well. Christie said he had “significant concerns” about online gambling even though New Jersey currently allows residence to bet horse racing online through a state owned website.