Mobile Menu


A History of Gambling in New Jersey

There’s a reason New Jersey is so often one of the first places online casinos open their doors in America. Their gambling laws are some of the least restrictive in the US, and that means they’re always a good choice for companies looking for a new base of operations.


There’s a long history of gambling in New Jersey, going back hundreds of years. That’s a tradition that is still going on today, with online casinos starting their operations within the state relatively frequently.

Where have these slightly more permissive laws come from, and what does it mean for gamblers?

New Jersey’s Racing Start

As recently as 2019, Unibet NJ started operating in New Jersey. The European gambling company started its operations within the state in June 2019, and started its sports betting service three months later. It’s amongst the latest in a long line of gambling operations to take root in New Jersey.

For the real start to New Jersey gambling, you need to go back 200 years. Lotteries were common within the state at the time, and were used to fund the military and both Princeton and Rutgers universities.

Due to corruption and distrust of lotteries on a national scale, they were soon banned across the States. Some refused to pay out, others were rigged entirely, and eventually people had enough. By the 1890s there were hardly any legal lotteries still remaining.

In New Jersey there was still horse racing to keep the punters occupied. The oldest racecourse in the US – Freehold Raceway – was opened in the 1850s, although informal races were being held there much earlier. In the spirit of American fun, these were soon banned as well.

In fact, all gambling was theoretically banned until 1939 – at least that’s the story. Like prohibition, there was plenty of places you could put on a bet illegally, and it wasn’t especially well policed. By the 1970s the New Jersey state lottery had returned, and other forms of gambling reintroduced.

Online Gambling and Sports Betting

Like a lot of places in the world, online gambling hit New Jersey by storm – but there was strange catch in the initial legislation. Only in Atlantic City were people allowed to gamble, and so state legislators decided that all server farms for state-based online gambling sites needed to be based in the city. With some tooing and froing, a bill was eventually passed in 2013. Gamblers must be 21 and be using a device within New Jersey.

There are efforts to expand gambling locations to beyond Atlantic City. These have thus far not been successful.

Sports betting should have been legal in the state since 2012. It was approved by voters by a ratio of 2-to-1. However, nothing is ever that simple.

It took six more years of legal challenges for the state to be allowed to issue licences for sports betting establishments.

Of course, that cleared the way for Unibet to open its doors within the state shortly afterwards. As of 2020 there are 17 online sports betting companies within the state.


Article By

blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

Follow Mat on:
Twitter: @matgrowcott    Google Plus: matgrowcott