For the past two decades, the thought of placing a bet in Atlantic City on the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl or the 76ers winning the NBA title was nothing more than a dream.

Come Monday, making such bets in the resort could be one step closer to reality.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear New Jersey’s challenge to the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that prohibits sports betting in most states.

Many believe sports betting will soon be legal in the state because of the court’s 80 percent overturn rate and changing public attitudes toward gambling.

The court is expected to rule in the summer. Traditionally, the court takes a couple of months to rule on each case. If the justices rule in the state’s favor, the city’s casinos are expected to move quickly to try to take advantage of the more than $723 million in economic output sports betting could generate, according to a report from Oxford Economics.

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.

If the ban is overturned, sports betting would be permitted at casinos in Atlantic City as well as at Monmouth Park, Freehold Race Track and the Meadowlands Race Track. Casinos and racetracks in the state have already started making plans for legalized sports betting.

In November, during the Sports Betting USA Conference, MGM Vice President of Race and Sports Jay Rood announced that Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa plans to build a $7 million sports book at the resort if the law is struck down. Monmouth Park has announced plans to team up with British bookmaker William Hill on a $1 million partnership.

“This area has been talking about it for years, so there is going to be no debate if we should have it,” said Freeman, “The casinos are already scouting out where the sports books will be located.”

If the court strikes down the ban, the state will move quickly to rewrite laws and regulations, said Lloyd D. Levenson, CEO of the Cooper Levenson law firm, which specializes in casino gaming regulations.

“It’s not like they are going to rule on a Monday and we are going to have sports gaming on a Tuesday,” Levenson said. “There would have to be changes to the current law, and regulations have to be mapped out. It could take up to 60 days.”

The legalization of sports betting could bring more people to the city during off-season weekends such as the Super Bowl, said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming.

“If it’s approved, it puts Atlantic City in an advantageous position,” Pollock said. “They already have the infrastructure in place to support it.”

The hearing will bring to a close an eight-year legal battle for state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union. After years of trying, the state passed a law in 2014 allowing sports betting within the state’s borders, but legal challenges have kept it from taking effect.

Lesniak said he started the crusade to bring sports betting to New Jersey to save the state’s struggling horse racing industry and Atlantic City’s failing casino market.

“Atlantic City’s biggest problem is that most visitors spend only 10 hours there, unlike Vegas where they spend a couple of days,” said Lesniak, who says he plans to attend the hearing. “In Vegas, people go for long weeks during the Super Bowl and March Madness. If it’s approved, it will give them a boost.”

Under current federal law, the only states in which sports betting is legal are Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.

If the sports betting ban is struck down, New Jersey is expected to generate more than $173 million in tax revenue and see the creation of more than 3,633 jobs, according to the study.

Lester Corbin, a 66-year-old resident of the city, said the time to allow sports betting in the city is now.

“First, they have gambling already. Why shouldn’t this be allowed,” Corbin said Tuesday while walking along the Boardwalk. “It will bring people in for big events like the Super Bowl.”

While legalizing sports betting nationwide has public support, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco thinks the sports betting ban outside Nevada should continue.

Opponents maintain that state-sponsored gambling preys on vulnerable people and creates a variety of social ills. A coalition of anti-gambling and religious groups argued in a legal brief that legalized gambling would open the door for casino companies to further “target and exploit the financially desperate, exacerbate crime, cultivate addiction and force even those citizens who rarely or never gamble to foot the bill for the enormous social costs and state budget problems they leave behind.”

“New Jersey believes that the state’s economic interest would be best served by authorizing sports gambling at its casinos and racetracks,” Francisco wrote in his brief to the court on the matter. “Whatever the merits of that policy, Congress has placed it off limits in an exercise of its authority to preempt state law in matters covered by the Commerce Clause.”

Investment in properties should increase if the ban is struck down, analysts say.

“I don’t think that it’s the silver bullet, but it should drive the economy to a certain extent,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. “You will see properties invest in it, which will help the economy.”

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Contact: 609-272-7046 nhuba@pressofac.com

Twitter @acpresshuba

Started working in newsrooms when I was 17 years old. Spent 15 years working for Gannett New Jersey before coming to The Press of Atlantic City in April 2015.

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