ATLANTIC CITY — For decades, sports fans have dreamed about heading to a casino property in the resort and placing a bet on their favorite National Football League team to cover the point spread.
That’s a long shot for this year, but come the 2018 season, it could be a reality. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear New Jersey’s challenge to the federal sports-betting ban. Arguments are expected to be heard in the coming months, with a decision expected in 2018.
If the court overturns the ban, casino properties in the city are expected to act quickly to take advantage of the hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue.
“Since Atlantic City already enjoys online Internet gaming, the introduction of sports betting will be an easy addition for us,” Mayor Don Guardian said. “We will be able to attract sports fans from all over the world, inviting them to spend a few nights in Atlantic City to watch amazing sporting events like the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and so much more. If sports betting is approved, Atlantic City will continue to be a leader in this industry.”
Atlantic City is in one of the best positions in the country to act quickly and take advantage of sports betting if it becomes legal nationwide, said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.
“This area has been talking about it for years, so there is going to be no debate if we should have it,” Freeman said of New Jersey’s stance on the issue. “The casinos are already scouting out where the sports books will be located.”
Legalizing sports betting in the United States would curb the $150 billion illegal market while supporting up to 152,000 jobs, creating an estimated $26 billion in economic output and generating up to $5.3 billion in tax revenue nationwide, according to new research by Oxford Economics released earlier this year.
“We are seeing a trend towards sports betting in this country,” Freeman said. “Whether it’s the teams that have been placed in Las Vegas or the fact that 14 states have introduced legislation to get out of ahead of sports betting, there is a trend here. The time and situation that we are in right now is far different with respect to sports betting.”
New Jersey is challenging a 1992 federal law that restricts sports betting to Nevada and three other states. The four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA sued to stop New Jersey in 2012. New Jersey claims the federal law violates the constitution by preventing states from repealing their own laws.
The decision of the court to hear the case is seen as positive for the law being overturned, said Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center. The center is a Washington D.C.-based Supreme Court advocacy group for state and local governments.
“Usually when the Supreme Court takes the case, there is an 80 percent overturn rate,” Soronen said. “The leagues know this.”
Soronen said the ruling could have a long-term impact on the states rights versus federal rights debate.
“If this case doesn’t impact you now, it could in the future,” Soronen said. “This ruling could have an impact on things like self-diving cars and assisted suicide on the federal level.”
In 2016, the 192 sports books in Nevada, the only state to allow betting on all sports, took in nearly $219.2 million in revenue, according to a report from the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Center for Gaming Research. The NFL and college football accounted for more than 41 percent of the bets placed, according the UNLV report
The legalization of sports betting would be a huge benefit for Atlantic City, said Martin Wessner, 50, of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“Why not. People are doing it already,” Wessner said as he stood outside of Resorts Casino Hotel Thursday afternoon. “It’s something that people enjoy, and it’s going to increase revenue.”
While Wessner, supports the idea, James McGuiness, 68, of Stanford, Connecticut, said adding sports betting could lead to future gambling problems.
“Right now I think there is enough gaming,” McGuiness said Thursday while he was walking on the Boardwalk. “If you have it, more kids could have gambling issues.”