politics

Governor Puts $40 on Germany, Devils in New Jersey’s First Legal Sports Bets

Updated on
  • Murphy: revenue from sports betting ‘not a huge game changer’
  • Bets reflect soccer love, stint as overseas ambassador

Phil Murphy places a bet at Monmouth Park on June 14.

Photographer: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy isn’t betting that the introduction of sports wagering at casinos will provide much of a boost to the government’s finances. But he is placing some of his own money on the line.

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. senior partner and U.S. ambassador to Germany, Thursday placed the first legal sports bet in New Jersey at Monmouth Park, a racetrack -- wagering $20 that Germany will win the World Cup and another $20 that his state’s hockey team, the Devils, will take the championship.

State officials anticipate that the introduction of such betting -- thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month -- will boost tax revenue by $13 million in the first year. The American Gaming Association is a bit more optimistic, estimating it should range from $15 million to $44 million, depending on availability.

While welcome, that doesn’t do much to cover Murphy’s $37.4 billion spending plan, which relies on new or higher taxes on millionaires.

“It’s meaningful in the sense it’s positive, but it’s not a huge game changer,” Murphy said Thursday in an interview on Bloomberg Radio, when asked about the impact of the new revenue.

Murphy, a Democrat, anticipates the new wagering will help bring more visitors to Atlantic City -- whose economy was battered as gambling proliferated in other states -- and to New Jersey racetracks. That should help casinos, restaurants and bars.

“I think the knock-on impact is going to be very substantial and immediate,” Murphy said.

Since taking office in January, Murphy has approved and proposed spending that would cost the state $1.76 billion by 2020. Some state lawmakers are resisting the governor’s call to raise taxes to help support his priorities.

Murphy, part owner of the Sky Blue woman’s soccer team, is a self-described lifelong fan of the sport, which was reflected in his bets. In the interview with Bloomberg, before his picks were disclosed by reporters gathered on site, he declined to tip his hand -- though he said he wouldn’t back the New York Yankees’s most-reviled foe.

“The bet is still a state secret, but it will not be on the Red Sox,” Murphy said.

— With assistance by Lisa Abramowicz, and Tom Keene

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