On Monday, the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA).
The decision brings a five-year legal battle in the Murphy vs. NCAA (formerly Christie vs. NCAA) case to a close. It should come as no surprise that because of its role in legalizing sports betting that the New Jersey is likely to be the first state outside of Nevada to offer it.
But what does all this mean for NJ racetracks and Atlantic City casinos? When will they be able to take the first bets? And who will be the first to do so?
Regulating NJ sports betting is first on the list
Sports betting may be legal, but NJ sports betting is still without regulations including licensing and tax rates.
On Monday, following the decision on sports betting, Gov. Philip Murphy and Stephen Sweeney, the NJ Senate president, committed to working together. They intend to pass a bill regulating sports betting quickly.
Murphy released the following statement:
“Today’s victory would not have been possible without the incredible bipartisan effort from so many in our state, particularly former Governor Christie and former State Senator Lesniak. I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future.”
That’s all well and good, but since the beginning of the year, casinos and racetracks have been busy preparing for this day. At least up to the point where a significant financial investment was involved.
Monmouth Park is chomping at the bit
Monmouth Park is probably closer to accepting sports bets than anybody.
“It’s my intention, unless somebody stops us, to be up and running in two weeks,” Dennis Drazin, president and CEO of Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth Park, said Monday at a press conference.
On Tuesday, Drazin was more specific and said Monmouth Park would accept the first sports wager on May 28.
“When they told me the 28th I was a little concerned because it’s a Monday, and I would like to try to do it before the weekend,” said Drazin to App.com. “But with all the logistics, getting everyone trained, that is the date we are targeting now.”
William Hill, a London-based sportsbook, invested in a sports bar at the New Jersey Shore racetrack. The sports bar has an occupancy of 300 people. Monmouth Park plans to expand it into the grandstand. After the expansion, the sports bar/book will be able to welcome 7,500 people and their wagers.
While Monmouth Park wants to hit the ground running, it is prepared to take its lead from the state.
“If the Legislature or the governor says ‘slow down,’ I’m gonna listen to them,” Drazin said.
Borgata Hotel & Casino isn’t far behind Monmouth Park
The first-ever Sports Betting USA conference took place in November 2017. At the event, MGM Resorts International revealed it was going to build a sportsbook at its Borgata Casino property. There was also mention of the sportsbook and mobile sports betting on the Q1 earnings call.
MGM CEO Jim Murren made an appearance on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” on Monday. Murren said he expects MGM to be “a very significant player, if not the largest player in this market.”
In addition to the Borgata Casino in New Jersey, MGM has casinos in Nevada, Maryland, Michigan, and Mississippi.
“We have already established the architecture to deploy sports betting as soon as the states allow us to do that,” Murren said.
Murren also has his eyes on mobile sports betting.
“We already have the software. We have our mobile app called playMGM that is already activated in Nevada.”
Don’t forget about Caesars
Caesars isn’t as near to adding an NJ sports betting product to its portfolio as Monmouth Park or Borgata. Expect them to enter the market when it strategically makes sense.
President and CEO Mark Frissora released the following statement regarding Monday’s Supreme Court decision:
“The Supreme Court’s landmark PASPA ruling creates a golden opportunity to end illegal sports wagering once and for all by creating a well-regulated alternative that sports fans can trust. Caesars is a leader in legalized gaming in the U.S. As a result, we expect to be able to provide safe, exciting sports wagering experiences to consumers across the country, as we do today in Nevada. We plan to announce our specific approach to this business as we better understand the opportunities and regulations which evolve from today’s Supreme Court decision.”
What about the new kids on The Boardwalk?
Up until Monday, most of our attention has been on the June 28 grand openings for Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino. But earlier this year, both casinos showed their interest in offering sports betting.
Bruce Deifik, the owner of Ocean Resort Casino, has every intention of opening a state-of-the-art sportsbook. Deifik made a statement to that effect soon after purchasing the former Revel Casino Hotel.
Of course, Ocean Resort Casino is still waiting for its NJ gaming license. If the license is in place, then chances are a sportsbook will be operational when the casino opens its doors for the first time.
Hard Rock Atlantic City is also preparing for its grand opening with a complete renovation of the former Trump Taj Mahal. Its casino license was issued last week and everything is falling into place for both land-based and online gaming — including NJ sports betting.
Earlier this year, the casino partnered with Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) to build its online gaming portfolio. And while sports betting was not specifically mentioned, there is no doubt it is on Hard Rock’s radar. GiG’s platform will likely be the tech behind Hard Rock Atlantic City’s future online sports bets.
Expect a flurry of activity over the next few weeks
Even if regulatory legislation doesn’t pass soon, everyone else — from racetracks to casinos to sports gambling enthusiasts — is gearing up for launch. That alone will light the fire for the state to get a new NJ sports betting law on the books.
We reached out to several industry experts to get their early predictions. The consensus is it is too early to tell mainly because the legislative process is not clearly defined.
Most likely, every casino in New Jersey will want to implement sports betting as soon as possible. Being early to market is essential — especially ahead of a busy summer in Atlantic City and packed sports calendar.
So let the games begin.