New Yorkers are biking, scootering, and jogging to New Jersey to bet on sports games

·4 min read
biker on george washington bridge
A cyclist rides onto the George Washington Bridge on August 16, 2011 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • New Yorkers are hitting the pavement to cross the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

  • They're biking, scootering, and jogging to cross state lines and virtually sports bet, according to the New York Times.

  • New York City has technically legalized online sports betting, but it hasn't rolled out yet.

If you're a New Yorker hoping to make a dime off a sports game - but without losing money to a toll - the place for you might just be a jog or e-scooter ride away.

The New York Times' David Waldstein reported that a group of bettors are taking to leg or wheel and traversing the George Washington Bridge to make their wagers. That's because the George Washington Bridge connects Upper Manhattan with New Jersey; in Manhattan, bettors still aren't able to legally gamble on games on their phones. But in New Jersey, they can. Cue the bikers, scooters, and runners.

One bettor, Colman Cooper, arrived in New Jersey via bike. He told the New York Times that if he won on 1 p.m. games, he might bike back from Manhattan to New Jersey to try his hand again for a 4 p.m. game.

The entrance to the George Washington Bridge is located in New York's Washington Heights. For New Yorkers residing in Upper Manhattan - which includes neighboring Inwood and Harlem - as well as the Bronx, the bridge is easily accessible. Once on the bridge, there's just about a mile and a half between you and New Jersey.

It's a byproduct of the ongoing rollout of sports betting - especially mobile sports betting - and the way that some bettors have gotten creative during the pandemic. In 2018, the Supreme Court lifted a federal ban on sports betting, Insider's Alexandra Licata reported. New Jersey launched its sports betting that year.

Currently, New Yorkers can only bet on sports in-person at a handful of casinos upstate, according to MarketWatch. In April 2021, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would soon have its own online sports betting but said the state needed to decide on an operator to run that outfit.

Since New York hasn't done that yet, it's still not legal to place mobile wagers in the state, according to the Times.

New Yorkers heading to Jersey isn't a new phenomenon. Sports Illustrated's Ben Pickman reported in August on how virtual sports bettors flock to Linwood Pizza, right across the bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Owner Jim Missiris told Sports Illustrated that his specialty pizza output increases by 50% during football season.

"It's almost like a party being in here," Missiris told Sports Illustrated.

The pandemic also fueled a boom in online sports betting. The American Gaming Association said that a record 7.6 million Super Bowl bettors in 2021 would wager virtually, a 63% year-over-year increase. Meanwhile, the number of bettors planning to bet in person dropped.

And, as the New York Times highlighted, the bridge also saw a pandemic boom - because the in-person New Jersey casino closed. Biking and e-scootering also took off even more during the pandemic, as work-from-home denizens yearned to safely get around and get some air.

But while New Yorkers are getting their steps - and bets - in, the practice might not be so healthy for New York's wallet.

New York State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. chairs the racing, gaming, and wagering committee, and has been a proponent for legalizing virtual betting to help raise funds for state programs. Addabbo told the Times that New York's legislation includes funding for gambling addiction programs; the state's Office of Addiction Services and Supports calls gambling addiction a "hidden addiction," and advises that having a plan before gambling can help adults gamble responsibly.

"That's our money that's going over that bridge," Addabbo told the Times. "Money that should be going to New York's education system is going to New Jersey. It burns me up."

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