Hot Dog! Competitive Eating Bill Passes In Legislative Committee And Moves On

Legislation would officially sanction sportsbooks to offer wagers on events like the Oscars and the Nathan's eating contest.
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A New Jersey Senate committee on Monday approved a bill that would add competitions such as the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest to the list of “sporting events” allowed for wagering under state gaming regulations.

Sen. James Beach, a Cherry Hill Democrat who is chairman of the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee, said he watches the annual July 4 frankfurter-noshing event, and he assured a skeptical committee member that there was plenty of skill involved.

The bill also adds awards competitions — think Academy Awards or Emmys — to that “sporting events” list for the purposes of oversight from the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The DGE has permitted voting on the Oscars, but it has needed to make a special ruling to do so. Legislation would streamline the authorization process on competitive eating or awards shows, and the bill would set a wager limit of no more than $100 and a win limit of no more than $500 to discourage incentives for any foul play in voting.

The bill was cleared by the Assembly Tourism, Gaming & The Arts Committee a year ago and unanimously approved by the full Assembly in July. The unanimous backing of the Senate committee and the fact that Gov. Phil Murphy also is a Democrat seems to bode well for the bill’s chances of becoming law.

Esports was the meatier part of the bill

For Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, the core of this three-pronged bill was not hot dogs but eSports, which Caputo told njonlinegambling.com on Monday was “the next big thing.”

“Young people are plugged into these games, like it or not, so we worked out a bill that addresses any concerns,” said Caputo, 80.

A former Atlantic City casino executive, Caputo has sought to aid the city’s main industry by turning it into a national magnet for highly followed eSports competitions.

State law already bans wagering on high school sporting events. Under the terms of the Assembly and Senate bills, the ban “expands on prohibited sports events to include electronic sports competitions sponsored by or affiliated with high schools or competitions in which the majority of competitors are under the age of 18. The bill also clarifies the age limit regarding certain sports events to accommodate the growing trend of younger competitors in the video gaming community.”

The bill, then, would allow for DGE approval of wagering on certain eSports competitions under certain conditions.

The third segment of the bill is a technical one that “allows for a transactional waiver period of six months for racetracks with a sports wagering lounge to continue accepting bets. This allows the racetracks to continue normal operations while adding online sports wagering operations and obtaining the additional licenses from the racing commission and the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The bill allows for a renewal of the transactional waiver up to three one-year periods following the initial waiver, at the discretion of the division.”

Caputo said that the item simplifies the issue of jurisdictional oversight for sportsbooks.

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