New Jersey AG Says Mafia Bust Shows Need for Legal Sports Betting

on October 23, 2014
NJ Acting AG John Hoffman legal sports betting

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman says that a recent mafia bust shows why New Jersey needs legal sports betting. (Image: AP)

The NJ AG says that crime pays, and pays well, but he’s hoping by legalizing sports betting in the Garden State that it will put a damper on that reality.

New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said that the recent bust of a Mafia-run sports betting operation in the state shows exactly why legal sports betting should take place in the state.

The illegal ring, which was operated by the Genovese crime family, was just one of several alleged operations that allowed the family to make millions of dollars through sports betting, loan sharking, and check cashing schemes.

“We have talked before at length about one of the primary efforts in our sports betting journey that we have been on is to try to bring it out of the black market shadows,” Hoffman said at a press conference. “The mafia, the organized crime controlled shadows. And this is exactly where it’s happening.”

Taking Money from State

According to officials, the gambling ring was a multimillion dollar enterprise. New York Harbor Waterfront Commissioner Michael Murphy said that the Genovese sports betting operation took in more than $1.7 million in bets in 2011.

“When the mafia, when organized crime, takes over and makes money on illegal gambling, where does it go? It doesn’t go to property tax relief, it doesn’t go to senior citizens, and Medicare or prescription programs,” Murphy said. “It goes to money laundering, it goes to the importation of heroin, and there are kids dying today in New Jersey as a result.”

Legal sports betting could begin in New Jersey as early as this weekend. Last week, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill passed by the state legislature that backed up an earlier directive he made allowing racetracks and casinos in the state to offer bets on sporting events. While earlier court rulings held that the state couldn’t regulate sports betting due to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the wording of those decisions suggested that simply allowing it to happen without regulation could allow New Jersey to skirt around that law.

Sports Leagues Seek to Stop Betting

That move prompted a response from the four major sports leagues, as well as the NCAA. The organizations filed for an injunction in an effort to prevent betting to begin this weekend at Monmouth Park. However, the leagues (and in particular, the NFL, which will be the only competition on which bets would be taken this Sunday) would have to prove “irreparable harm” in order to receive that injunction, and legal experts are split in their opinions on whether they will succeed.

But officials who would like to see legal sports betting in the state say that people will bet on NFL games whether the leagues get their injunction or not: it’s just a matter of who takes those bets.

“People drink and people gamble,” Murphy said. “Some of the families that are still engaged in organized crime today, several generations ago enjoyed enormous profits during a time when drinking was illegal.”

New Jersey residents appear to have mixed feelings about allowing sports betting in the state, or at least about how much it might help the struggling Atlantic City casinos. A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that 44 percent of New Jersey residents think that sports betting will be a positive for Atlantic City, while 17 percent believe it will be a bad move, and 31 percent say it will make no difference.