New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill today which will allow qualified gambling entities to offer full-scale sports betting inside the state. The Assembly passed the bill by a unanimous vote of 73-0. Shortly thereafter, the Senate passed the Assembly version of the bill (A 4111) by a vote of 37-0.
The event comes just over three weeks after the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a statute which had limited sports wagering largely to Nevada for over 25 years.
The bill, primarily pushed by State Sen. Stephen Sweeney and Assembly members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey, now heads to Gov. Murphy’s desk.
While the Supreme Court decision removed the federal roadblocks for NJ to offer sports betting, the Garden State did not yet have a law on the books authorizing the activity. The bill passed today does just that, setting up the necessary regulatory body, framework and tax structure by which operators must abide.
Getting to the finish line
There was little doubt that sports betting legislation would fail to clear the Statehouse during today’s session. After all, the state spent millions litigating its case against several major sports leagues for the right to offer sports wagering, and is eager to get the industry up and running.
On Monday, the Assembly version of the bill passed through the Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts committee, while the Senate version glided through two committees of its own. The leagues didn’t give up their push to include an integrity fee into the equation, with the NBA, PGA and MLB dispatching representatives to put up a last-minute fight.
Lawmakers, however, were nonplussed. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo even hit back that the leagues should instead pick up the $9 million tab the state spent on legal fees.
In the end, lawmakers didn’t budge, and the integrity fee was not included in the final legislation.
So, can I bet on sports now?
Not quite yet, but very soon. The bill first needs to be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, who is supportive of sports betting. Murphy’s office has kept mum about when he will make it official, and has suggested that he might withhold his signature as leverage in an ongoing budget standoff that carries a June 30 deadline.
So while the governor may very well sign it in the coming days, there’s a possibility gamblers won’t be able to start placing bets for a further three weeks.
At least one operator, Monmouth Park, is ready to start taking wagers as soon as Friday. Resorts, newly partnered with DFS giant DraftKings, may also be prepared. But a three week delay wouldn’t be a bad thing for Ocean and Hard Rock AC, both of which plan to open their doors on June 28.
Ocean is partnering with William Hill and currently building a 7,500-square-foot sportsbook complex on its casino floor. Hard Rock hasn’t gone public with its plans for sports betting, but will no doubt get involved sooner rather than later.
What exactly is in the bill?
NJ’s new sports betting law gives licensed state casinos and horseracing tracks the right to offer a full range of sports betting options to patrons at both physical and online sports books. Here are a few more details:
- Players must be 21 years of age
- Physical sports books will be taxed at 8.5% gross gaming revenue, with online wagering taxed at 13%
- Sports betting can start immediately, but mobile betting will be delayed for 30 days
- Casino licensees may serve as the umbrella for a handful of other brands to launch their own independent online sports books
- The industry will be regulated by the Division of Gaming Enforcement
- Wagers cannot be placed on collegiate events that take place inside the state, or on events that include New Jersey colleges
Delaware beats NJ to the punch
While New Jersey may have put in the bulk of the work in getting PASPA overturned, it didn’t have the pleasure of being the first new state to take a legal single-game wager. That distinction went to Delaware, which was previously allowed to offer only a restricted form of sports betting, and already had a law on the books in the case of a favorable Supreme Court decision.
Several major media outlets flocked to the Dover Downs racino sports book on Tuesday, where Gov. John Carney made the first bet. But aside from the cameramen and reporters, turnout for the event was relatively low. This wasn’t unexpected – Delaware’s gambling industry brings in only a tiny fraction of what the Garden State does.
With the sports betting bill primed and ready for the governor’s signature, we will soon find out just how much more popular the vertical in NJ will be.