Every day, hundreds of New Yorkers stream into the Hoboken train terminal. These commuters aren’t heading to jobs – they have come to sit in the terminal for a short period of time while they place bets on sporting events with New Jersey’s mobile online casino and mobile sportsbooks. Then, without ever leaving the station, they hop back on the next train back to the Big Apple.
New York and New Jersey share a 108-mile border. Carpetbagging gamblers come into New Jersey by train or car, over the George Washington Bridge or on a commuter ferry. Some make a stop at a rest stop to place their wager while others pull over on the shoulder of the highway, lay their deposit and turn around at the next exit to go back home. Regardless of their strategy, residents of New York City, where sports betting is not yet legal, have embraced New Jersey’s sports betting infrastructure to indulge their betting pursuits.
New Jersey Enjoys NY Cash
New Jersey was the first state to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s 2018 repeal of the PASPA anti-sports betting Act and activate sports betting in the state. In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned PASPA, a federal law, passed by Congress in 1992, that had banned sports betting in most of the U.S.
Sixteen states have legalized sports betting in one way or another over the last year-and-a-half. New Jersey leads the way in revenue -- NJ sportsbooks took in nearly $3 billion in their first year of operations. Nearly $320 million was bet on sporting events New Jersey in the month of May 2019 -- that put New Jersey in the #1 spot as the state that took in the highest amount in sports betting handle as they surpassed Nevada for the first time.
New Jersey, under the leadership of then-governor Chris Christie, spearheaded the anti-PASPA court action. New Jersey was among the first states to take advantage of the new ruling and within a month of the high court ruling, started accepting sports wagers. Now, New Jersey is reaping the rewards of years of legal battles via tax revenues, licensing fees and other payments that are filling the state coffers. New Jersey officials acknowledge that their neighbors across the border are largely to thank for the windfall.
Analysts say that there are two reasons for the phenomenal Garden State success. One is that New Jersey has mobile betting. The second is a by-product of the mobile betting apparatus as NJ officials send a big shout-out to New York for sending bettors over the border to place their wagers in New jersey.
In New Jersey, mobile betting accounts for 82 percent of the state’s overall sports betting handle. The sports betting aficionados that travel from New York don’t need to reach a casino, race track or other land-based venue to place their bets. As long as you are twenty-one years of age and located within NJ boundaries when your bet is placed, you’re good to go.
Ever since mobile gaming got going in New Jersey, out-of-staters have tried a wide range of tricks to get around these restrictions: trying to place bets from the Staten Island Ferry on its journey across New York Harbor; standing atop the Tri-States Monument in Port Jervis, their phones held high and oriented southward; virtual private networks (VPNs) that mask users’ IP addresses and therefore their location and more.
So far, none of these techniques has worked. This can be credited to GeoComply, a company that works with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. The technology aims to ensure all bettors comply with the state’s geographical requirements.
So NYC residents who want to place wagers on sporting events must travel westward to the state border. New Jersey’s statistics show that 44 percent of all mobile bets in New Jersey are made within two miles of the state border and 80 percent of the bets are place within ten miles.
It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to see what’s happening. The COO of FanDuel said that as much as 25 percent of its New Jersey business comes from New Yorkers who cross the border, place their bet and return home. That includes gamblers who don’t drive – the 20 minute trip from Manhattan to Hoboken Terminal couldn’t be more convenient.
In fact, there’s convenient cell service within the Hoboken station so travelers don’t even need to leave the station, which saves them the cost of a return ticket.
Thanks to the legal and regulated betting system, the range of bets has expanded over the past year. There are parlay bets in which the bettor picks the winners of several games – with lower odds and higher payouts, most local bookies don’t like to take parlays but they’re easily available in New Jersey. One New Yorker who travels to Hoboken to place his preferred parlay bets says of the local bookies, “They don’t want to take that risk….the biggest parlay you could do with a bookie was four teams. The biggest parlay you can do with these guys is fifteen.”
The media has been forced to change their game as well. Fox sports 1 and ESPN have begun airing shows dedicated to betting and the Buffalo Wild Wings are testing a pilot program that will see a sports betting program rolled out in its New Jersey franchises. A number of major league teams have begun to invest in technology to bring in-game betting to ballparks and arenas so bettors can place wagers on action during the game itself.
With all the change, why doesn’t New York move in on the lucrative market?
Actually, sports betting is legal in New York but at present, it’s only legal in four upstate casinos:
- Rivers Sportsbook (Schenectady)
- FanDuel Sportsbook (Tioga Downs)
- Point Place (Bridgeport)
- Turning Stone (Syracuse)
In allowing the 4 upstate, tribal casinos to open, the legislature committed to refrain from granting any casino licenses for New York City until 2023. Some pro-gaming legislators are eying ways to get around that ban, including paying the upstate casinos or allowing those casinos to operate NYC casinos. If casinos open in NYC, it’s assumed that they would have sportsbooks.
There is no mobile betting in New York at present but given time, that too could change.