Once again, my wagers on the upcoming Super Bowl will be reserved for a neighborhood block pool and the Pick the Pros contest at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
But that might change next season.
After years of futility in the fight to gain legalized sports betting in local casinos, there appears to be a sliver of daylight at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway connector.
For those not familiar with the resort, it’s a tunnel.
According to North Jersey.com, Forbes.com and other media outlets, the U.S. Supreme Court opted Tuesday to seek the advice of the U.S. solicitor general before deciding whether to consider New Jersey’s ongoing challenge to a 1992 federal law that limits sports betting to Nevada and three other states.
It’s a small step, but it’s a step in what I continue to maintain is the right direction. At least the Supreme Court didn’t refuse to hear the appeal, unlike the 130 other cases it turned away Tuesday.
The current ban dates to 1992, when New Jersey missed out on the opportunity to have sports betting when Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
Atlantic City has been seeking to add sports betting for the past decade or so as a way to help save its sagging casino industry, but has yet to cover the spread.
Gov. Chris Christie and other state lawmakers have unsuccessfully attempted to legalize sports betting since voters approved it in 2011, but the four major professional sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball — and the NCAA, have twice sued to block it.
So far, their blocks have been more effective than the ones thrown by Pittsburgh’s offensive line against Kansas City last Sunday.
I think the wall of resistance is crumbling, however.
And they supposedly stand a good chance of obtaining the 24 necessary votes from the league’s owners to leave Northern California for the desert.
I take that as good news for Atlantic City.
Part of their reasoning behind the NFL’s quest to ban sports betting beyond Nevada and Delaware, which offers only parlay betting on NFL games, is that gambling would somehow affect the integrity of the game.
But if the NFL is willing to allow the Raiders to play in the shadow of Las Vegas’ casinos and sports books, they can’t possibly justify having an issue with allowing bets to be placed on the Boardwalk.
“We remain very much opposed to gambling on sports,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the NFL owner’s meetings in October. “We want to make sure we’re doing what’s right for the game.”
Never mind the fact that the NFL plays three games year in London, where sports betting is even bigger than in Las Vegas. It’s also legal in Mexico, where the Raiders and Houston Texans played a regular-season game this season.
The NHL is putting a franchise in Vegas next season. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights will be playing at the T-Mobile Arena in 2017-18.
It just seems more than little bizarre to me that the NFL, NHL and NBA, which played its All-Star Game in Vegas in 2007, have no problem with people placing wagers in Vegas sports books or on online gambling sites, yet believe that letting people do the same thing at Borgata, Tropicana Atlantic City or the five other existing casinos in Atlantic City is somehow compromising the game’s integrity.
Hopefully, that soon changes.
Granted, sports betting alone wouldn’t dig Atlantic City’s casinos out of their canyon-sized hole, but it would help.
Last year, more money was bet on Super Bowl 50 in Nevada’s sports books, between $120 million and $130 million, than any other Super Bowl in history.
“It doesn’t even sound realistic, but we had 25 windows open between the sports book, the race book and the ballrooms and there were never less than 10 people in a line all day,” Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at Las Vegas’ Hotel Casino and Spa, told the Las Vegas Review Journal last spring. “I’ve never seen so many people.”
As it stands now, the only way I can make a legal bet on this weekend’s Green Bay-Atlanta and Pittsburgh-New England conference championship games would be hop aboard the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and visit one of Delaware’s sports books or sports lottery outlets.
As much as I enjoy the ride across the Delaware Bay, I’d prefer to hit Caesars or the Golden Nugget.
I’m tired of Atlantic City missing the boat.
(David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.)