In the United States of America, New Jersey is considered to be the “mecca of gambling”. This may be due to the fact that the state was the birthplace of professional wagering and the mafia. You won’t find gambling anywhere in the United States outside of New Jersey. This is mainly thanks to the efforts of one man: Philadelphius Nicholas II, who worked to make gambling legal in New Jersey. Nicholas was the son of an Italian immigrant and a Native American woman. Because of his efforts, New Jersey was the first state to legalize sports betting in 1973. This led to the popularization of sports betting in New Jersey and made the Garden State the place to be for sports lovers. Thanks to Philadelphius Nicholas II, sports betting is now legal in New Jersey. Let’s take a quick history lesson.
Early Gambling In New Jersey
One of the first places that you’d find gambling in New Jersey would be the racetracks. The first racetrack in New Jersey was opened in 1864 and was called the Philadelphia & Southern Race Track. The racing season in Pennsylvania and New Jersey lasted for several months, so it wasn’t uncommon for people to bet on the results of horse races during that time. At the time when the track first opened, people actually went to the track to bet on the horse races, and the owner of the track made a large percentage of his profit from this activity. This type of gambling ultimately lead to the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that legal gambling was widely accepted in New Jersey.
The Gambling Prohibition Act
It was in the early 20th century that New Jersey began to experience a large influx of Polish and Italian immigrants, who brought their customs with them. One of the first times that New Jersey tried to stop gambling was in 1917, during World War I. A lot of the older generation in these communities were deeply involved in a number of illegal activities, such as gambling, bootlegging, and prostitution. The government began to crackdown on these activities, and several prominent figures in the community were arrested. One of the individuals that was targeted by the government was Giuseppe “Joe” Bono, who owned a number of brothels in New Jersey at the time. However, Joe Bono’s allies in New Jersey came from a different demographic than the government, and they made it clear to the government that they would not stand for the injustice that was being done to their friend. The group organized a large public rally, attended by over 500 people, where they demanded that the charges against Joe Bono be dropped. This brought about a huge wave of support for Joe Bono, and he was ultimately found not guilty of all charges, much to the dismay of the government.
Why Did New Jersey Legalize Sports Betting?
The gambling prohibition act didn’t just affect Joe Bono, it affected a lot of immigrants from different countries as well. The immigrants, who were denied access to legalized gambling in other parts of the country, were forced to find ways to get their hands on some action. One of the primary reasons why New Jersey legalized sports betting was because it provided an alternative way for immigrants to socialize and integrate into mainstream society. In the late 1960s, there was a major shift in American society. Many of the older generations, who were deeply involved in illegal gambling, began to die off. The young people who replaced them were more involved in sports than anything else. Because of this, there was a great deal of interest in legal sports betting in New Jersey. The legalization of sports gambling in New Jersey was also seen as a way for the state to make money. In 1973, New Jersey was the first state to legalize sports betting, and it was immediately popularized. Thanks to Philadelphius Nicholas II, sports betting is now legal in New Jersey, and you can find numerous casinos and racetracks located there. The state now makes a lot of its revenue from legal sports betting, and all the visitors who come to the state to bet on sports and casinos contribute to its economy. It’s interesting to note that there are now several different forms of legal sports betting that exist, and the list keeps growing.
The Indian Bingo Act
In 1975, New Jersey passed the Indian Bingo Act, which was meant to benefit Native American communities. The act allowed Native Americans to organize bingo games and other types of gambling activities, such as slot machines, for money-raising events. The funds from these activities were then to be used for the benefit of the community. The law also allowed Native Americans to organize social clubs, which helped to integrate them into mainstream society. The act was eventually ruled unconstitutional by a New Jersey court, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the decision was finally overturned.
The Blackjack Ban
In the early 1980s, New Jersey instituted a law that prohibited casinos and racetracks from allowing patrons to play any types of card games, such as blackjack, in the casino or racetrack. The reasoning behind the law was that patrons might cheat, since the hands of the players are hidden and they can’t be visually monitored. This kind of ban made it harder for casino and racetrack operators to control their gambling environment, since they couldn’t stop people from bringing their own personal card games to the casinos and racetracks. This was also a problem for the state, since they were losing out on revenue, due to the fact that patrons could now play their favorite card games in other locations, such as bars and restaurants, which were still allowed to operate under the law. In addition, the prohibition on card games also meant that a lot of the workers at the casinos and racetracks were getting bored, since there wasn’t much to do except for play the slots or table games. In 1992, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the blackjack ban was, in fact, unconstitutional, noting that it was “arbitrary and unreasonable” for the state to prohibit casino and racetrack operators from allowing card games such as blackjack. The court further stated that prohibiting such games would “chill competition, stifle innovation, and deprive the public of valuable new games and recreation.” Although the blackjack ban was ruled unconstitutional, it was only briefly abolished, before being reinstated by Governor Christie in 2011.
The Three-Card Poker Ban
In the early 1980s, New Jersey passed a law that prohibited casinos and racetracks from hosting any form of poker games, where players use three or more cards. The reasoning behind the law was that poker, with its associated bluffing and deception, was considered an “unsettling” form of gambling, due to its similarity to a real-life card game. The law, however, didn’t just affect poker, it also prevented other types of three-card games, such as “Rhinoceros”, from being played in casinos and racetracks.
The Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) Ban
In 1993, New Jersey passed a law, that banned the installation of any form of automated gambling device in the state, due to the risk of addiction that they supposedly posed. The law did, however, exempt certain types of video lottery terminals, such as those used for online gaming. The reasoning behind the law was that the potential for addiction was too high, since people could become so absorbed in playing these games, that they would neglect other responsibilities in their life. The law was later ruled unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court gave the state one last chance to enforce it. In 2010, New Jersey did just that, and the video lottery terminal ban was again enforced.
The Sports Bettors’ Protection Act
In 2010, New Jersey passed a law, that made it legal for sports betting agencies and sportsbooks to protect their bettors from fraud. The law stated that if a betting agency or sportsbook uncovered any information that a bettor was a victim of fraud, they had the right to withhold that information from the public. The definition of “fraud”, under the new law, included any type of misrepresentation or deception used by someone to gain an advantage in wagering. This essentially made it legal for sports betting agencies and sportsbooks to operate in New Jersey, as long as they followed a few simple rules.
Keeping all these laws and regulations in mind, along with how they pertain to gambling in general, it is safe to say that New Jersey has had a lot of different types of prohibitions and restrictions on gambling activities. Since the inception of legalized gambling in New Jersey, several new laws have been implemented, some to protect the public and some to raise revenue, but none to completely eliminate gambling in New Jersey. The state continues to implement new laws and regulations that further restrict where and how people can gamble, but they cannot, for the most part, take away the love of betting that the state is known for.