NJ Legislation Would Allow NBA Owner’s Sportsbook To Take NBA Bets

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A piece of legislation filed Monday in the state of New Jersey would relax part of a law pertaining to sports wagering that is hindering one Atlantic City casino.

The bill, A 5463, would pave the way for Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta, a billionaire who also owns the Houston Rockets NBA franchise, to see his struggling sportsbook accept action on NBA games. The inability to take NBA bets, which represents an average of about 15% of a U.S. sportsbook’s overall betting handle, has handicapped the property.

The legislation wouldn’t allow the Nugget to take bets on games involving the Rockets, though. Ultimately the legislation would result in rules comporting with Nevada’s, a state that has had sports betting for decades.

New Jersey, which kicked off sports betting in June 2018, was somewhat cautious in its roll-out of sports wagering. Now as NJ’s sports betting market heads into year no. 2 with billions of dollars worth of bets taken already, some state policymakers appear ready to loosen the reins.

According to the legislation:

This bill permits a direct or indirect legal or beneficial owner of 10% or more of a member team of a sports governing body to place or accept wagers on a sports event in which other member teams participate when the owner’s team is not participating. Currently, a legal or beneficial owner of 10% or more of a team may not place or accept wagers on any sports event in which any of the other member teams of the team’s sports governing body participate. This bill would permit placing and accepting wagers on those events when the owner’s team is not a participant in the event.

The only Atlantic City casino owner adversely impacted by the current law is Fertitta.

Hearing held with no discussion

The bill is sponsored by NJ state Reps. Raj Mukherji and John Burzichelli, both Democrats. The former is from District 33 (Hudson), while Burzichelli represents District 3 (Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem).

Under current law, Fertitta’s Golden Nugget could be fined up to a mere $1k for accepting bets on the NBA, but violating the law carries negative press that’s more significant than the potential fine from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

There’s a companion measure in the NJ Senate, sponsored by state Sen. Patrick Diegnan, a Democrat.

The Assembly bill received a successful preliminary vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. There was no public discussion of the bill.

hearing
Tuesday’s Assembly Appropriations Committee meeting

State of Golden Nugget’s sports betting

While the Golden Nugget is the dominant online casino in the state, its sports betting operation is at the very back of the pack.

The GN took in just $162,838 in sports betting revenue during the first five months of 2018, according to the DGE. That’s lowest among the state’s licensed sports betting operators.

Collectively, the state’s online and b&m sportsbooks generated $99,931,839 in revenue through May. GN’s market share is about 0.1%. A 5463 could potentially increase tax revenue for NJ.

Will lifting the NBA betting restriction move the needle for the sportsbook? While it will help grow the GN’s revenue, it’s not going to make an immediate material impact its market share. The casino has a long, long way to go before competing with the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, for example.

The GN’s online sports betting partner is BetAmerica, which comes from Churchill Downs.

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Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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