The line formed at the Borgata casino well before 11 a.m., the designated time that sports betting was set to begin on Thursday. There were a few gamblers who were prepared to wager thousands of dollars, and many others who wanted to make bets that were much more modest, arriving simply to be part of a moment that felt historic.
Scott Cronick was among the first to make it to the betting window, following state officials and Julius Erving, the retired basketball player, in placing some of the first legal bets on sporting events in New Jersey. He bet that the Yankees would win the World Series, the 76ers would claim the N.B.A. title and the Cowboys would be the Super Bowl champions.
“I made a lot of dumb bets today as a fan,” said Mr. Cronick, a radio broadcaster from nearby Somers Point. “I’ll make smarter bets as we go on.”
The Borgata and Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport were the only places prepared to accept gamblers as sports betting started in New Jersey, and both were inundated with people apparently delighted to have the chance to part ways with their money. At both venues, officials described the moment in soaring terms — as the dawn of a “new era” in New Jersey, and a significant opportunity to invigorate lagging Atlantic City casinos and the state’s racetracks.
It also represented the culmination of a legal battle that stretched on for nearly a decade, ending on Thursday morning as Gov. Philip D. Murphy held up slips of paper no larger than baseball cards — receipts with tiny black text showing his bets.
$20, Germany to win the World Cup, 7-2 odds. $20, Devils to win the Stanley Cup, 40-1 odds.
“There’s an old adage that you bet with your head, not with your heart,” Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, said at Monmouth Park, near the Jersey Shore. “So, for the past seven years, our heads and our hearts were in alignment as we fought to overturn an unlawful and unfair federal law.”
A landmark Supreme Court ruling last month cleared the way by setting aside a federal law that had effectively barred sports betting in most of the country. Mr. Murphy signed a bill on Monday passed by the State Legislature that formally legalized wagering.
The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa was the only casino positioned to immediately take bets, having transformed betting windows at its horse-racing facility into a temporary sports-gambling site until a permanent venue is completed.
It was a race to be ready in time. At Monmouth Park, Ryan Orner, the manager of the facility’s sports book, was barking last-minute reminders just moments before the governor placed his bets.
“Remember, cash first, then ticket,” he said. “And smile.”
Charles Rutkowski, 32, waited in line at Monmouth holding his 10-month-old son, Connor, as he analyzed the huge black boards above the betting window that listed odds on baseball and soccer, among other events.
“We’re going to bet on the Yankees, some future bets, to mark the significance of the day,” he said, surprised by the wait. “I didn’t think the lines would be this long. I thought people had work.”
Other gamblers took bigger risks.
“This is the year: $100 to win on the Browns,” said Ryan Daly, 28, who was born and raised in New Jersey, yet somehow wound up a fan of the Cleveland Browns, who failed to win a single game last season. He noted that given the Browns’ long odds, he stood to make substantial money should a miracle occur and the team wins the Super Bowl.
“Pays $7,500,” he said, flashing his ticket.
At the Borgata, Kele Munoz posed for a selfie as she waited in line. She was also prepared to make a hefty gamble: $2,000 that her home country, Brazil, would win the World Cup. She had just returned from Las Vegas, but she had to leave there before she could place a bet. “It was like fate,” said Ms. Munoz, who missed work on Thursday to head to the casino from West New York, N.J.
As betting got underway, the Borgata’s race- and sports-betting book was stuffed with local politicians, camera crews and in the front row, Mr. Erving, known by his fans as Dr. J, who made the first bet at the Borgata. The crowd roared when he wagered $5 “on the Eagles to repeat.”
Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat and the State Senate president, showed off the receipt for his $200 bet on the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl. “This was a seven-year battle,” he said of the protracted process to legalize sports betting.
He cautioned that sports betting was unlikely to bring about a windfall in tax revenue, but it stood to bolster Atlantic City. “This is a game changer,” he said.
Some noted that they had gambled on sporting events long before Thursday, but they were relieved the process was now legal. “Finally,” Mr. Cronick said, “I don’t have to go to my corner bookie.”
Johannes Jenkins has lived in Atlantic City for about 30 years. “I’m glad we’ve got it,” he said as he waited to place his bet on the Phillies. “It works in Vegas,” he added, “it will probably work here, too.”
The crowds continued to file into Monmouth Park into the afternoon. Tommy Mahon was on his way to the beach in Long Branch from his home in Hazlet. He carried his beach chair with him as he got in line to bet, in case he needed to rest in the long lines. “You just can’t beat the Jersey Shore in the summertime,” he said, as he pocketed his $50 bet on Russia to win the first game of the World Cup. (They did, beating Saudi Arabia 5-0).
C.J. Pulcine, who is also from Hazlet, said he spent Wednesday night doing his research so he knew which team to bet.
“I’ve been looking forward to this since they first mentioned it in 2012,” Mr. Pulcine said. He was optimistic about his betting success. “I always say, for me at least, sports is where I can make money,” he said, “horses is more of a hobby and something to do for fun on the weekends. But I know way more about sports than horses.”
The seemingly endless queue surprised even Joe Asher, the chief executive officer of William Hill, a major sports betting operation that had partnered with Monmouth.
“This is the slow time on the sporting calendar,” he said. “It’s basically baseball, a little bit of golf, and Russia vs. Saudi Arabia in soccer. I mean, really? Can you imagine what this is going to be like opening weekend of the N.F.L. season or when you got Giants Eagles?”
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