You knew it was coming. It was like a tsunami which you could see forming off the coast. Legalized sports gambling and the state of New Jersey were joined together on Monday by a 6-3 decision by the United States Supreme Court, which upheld a proposal backed by former NJ Governor Chris Christie to legalize sports betting in New Jersey in 2011.
Opponents of the decision went to court to block the decision, which was originally made in 2011. It only took seven years to resolve the matter.
In expressing the majority opinion of the court, Justice Samuel Alioto acknowledged the controversy of legalizing sports gambling, which until Monday was allowed only in Nevada, but said, “the choice is not ours to make.”
The people in Jersey made their choice and now the court has approved that decision. As a Jersey Guy, who grew up in an atmosphere where terms such as “over and under” and “”cover” were as much part of the conversation as who won or lost, all I can say is “Let the fun begin”, which could be as soon as Memorial Day at Monmouth Park, the picturesque horse track on the Jersey shore which has been living on the edge of survival for years like most thoroughbred tracks.
You think I’m kidding.
Consider a college football game between Rutgers and Penn State at the Meadowlands in 1995 in which Penn State–as usual–was pounding Rutgers. With the outcome of the game decided, and then Giants Stadium virtually cleared out, a large contingent of fans cheered and booed as Penn State scored in the final seconds to cap a 59-34 victory.
The game ended with then Rutgers coach Doug Graber involved in a profane laced tirade with Penn State coach Joe Paterno. Presumably it was about running up the score. But the remaining fans had a different agenda. With just over a minute remaining and Penn State leading 52-34, the Lions scored on a 42 yard TD pass to make the score 59-34, a spread of 25 points.
What was the big deal?
Penn State was favored by 20 and “covered”, much to the delight of the fans who bet on Penn State and much to the disgust and dismay of the Rutgers backers. Adding to the drama was this tidbit. The TD pass was thrown by Penn State back-up QB Mike McQueary, who reportedly had a compulsive gambling habit. McQueary, of course, was a key figure in the sexual assault case involving long time Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky.
People still remember the stadium ground breaking press conference organized by Sonny Werblin, largely behind the building of the new stadium just across the Hudson River (through the Lincoln Tunnel was the most direct route).
Werblin wanted to promote the proximity of the new stadium to New York City, so he arranged to release a couple of carrier pigeons from the top of the Empire State building in Manhatan, a scant seven miles from the stadium. The pigeons were released as scheduled and in a few minutes, one pigeon arrived at the site.
But the second pigeon was nowhere in site. As the minutes passed and Werblin and Meadowland officials squirmed, one wise guy in the crowd commented, “Maybe the pigeon got caught up in Tunnel traffic, Sony. ”
Only in Jersey, which is still proud of the fact that it is the last remaining state in the country which does not have self service gas stations.
There still could be some speed bumps before the highway is completely open on this issue, but in Jersey, this is a day to celebrate, especially at Monmouth Park, which means that people will still come to see horse racing, but they will also come for their other passion–gambling on whatever event is being held.
The path is simple, a straight shot off Exit 105 of the Garden State Parkway to Route 36 East will take you right into New Jersey’s new answer to Disneyworld.
Let the games begin.
And here’s the special Jersey bonus. Even with sports betting allowed, fans in the state will not be permitted to bet on Rutgers games (or any college other teams in the state of New Jersey). In the case of Rutgers, that could mean the difference between profit and loss for the day.