The History of Gambling in New Jersey

New Jersey is well known for being one of the biggest gambling centers in the US. Atlantic City has long been a popular resort town and has offered legal casinos to visitors from across the country. In addition, the state of NJ was instrumental in helping to overturn the laws against sports betting. Outside of Nevada, few US states have as much of a rich and detailed history involving gambling, and today, players in the Garden State can enjoy legal sports betting and casino gaming both online and in person.

If you’ve ever wondered about the full history of gambling in New Jersey beyond recent news, this article should help you understand how the state became such a gambler’s paradise. Learn more about the origins of gambling in NJ and find the best NJ online casino sites.

Early Gambling History in New Jersey

Historical records indicate that gambling in New Jersey started before the US was even fully formed. Back in the 1700s, lotteries were used to help finance the military during the French and Indian war as well as the American war for independence. Lotteries were extremely popular at the time, offering players a chance to win large sums of money while funds could be used to fund public projects. Both Princeton and Rutgers Universities were also funded by lotteries. However, the state eventually banned lotteries in 1844.

New Jersey’s Freehold Raceway first opened in the 1830s, making it the oldest racecourse in the country. It offered horse racing and betting, with dog racing later added to. In 1870, the first thoroughbred racetrack opened up, although gambling would be banned completely in the state not long after in 1894.

New Jersey Gambling Ban

New Jersey’s original gambling ban lasted from 1894 until 1939, although it was largely unenforced. Gambling continued almost as normal during this time, with bingo games available at fundraising events and sports betting still openly on offer. In addition, the Monmouth Park thoroughbred racetrack continued to operate as normal, and slot machines were also available to play.

Racetrack gambling was officially made legal again in 1939, allowing the state to profit from the betting taking place at Freehold Raceway and Monmouth Park. Later on, NJ would also legalize non-profit bingo and raffles, and in 1970, the state lottery was formed.

Gambling in Atlantic City

State legislators planned to bring casino gambling to NJ in 1974, but voters struck down the bill. Just two years later, however, a new referendum was held. This time, the law focused on Atlantic City, allowing casinos to operate only within the city. This time, the vote was successful, and the Resorts Casino Hotel became the first legal casino to operate outside of Nevada in the US.

Gambling in Atlantic City soon became a popular attraction, with multiple casinos opening up their doors to tourists from the surrounding states. Atlantic City was particularly well located for tourism as people from all over the East coast could easily drive to the city and enjoy their weekends at the casinos and resorts.

Online Gambling in New Jersey

Although gambling is still popular in Atlantic City, it’s become more popular to gamble online in recent years. Online gambling was illegal in much of the US, especially online sports betting, which was outlawed due to the PASPA federal law from 1992. New Jersey was instrumental in helping to strike this law down, with the Supreme Court ruling it as unconstitutional in 2018.

Since then, New Jersey and many other states have gone on to legalize sports betting, both online and in person. Additionally, New Jersey has joined a growing number of states that allow online casinos, with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement providing casino licenses to sites that pass strict tests.

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