March Madness In New Jersey: What Will NJ Sports Betting Look Like in Years to Come?

Written By Eric Ramsey on March 13, 2018

Sports betting is on the tip of everyone’s tongue right now, particularly in New Jersey. The state is trying to legalize it, and the US Supreme Court is preparing to decide if it should be allowed to do so.

The court’s ruling could lead to widespread legal sports betting in NJ and beyond. A handful of states have already put new laws on the books in anticipation of a favorable decision.

The arrival of spring also opens up one of the elite windows for sports betting. March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament, is the most-wagered-upon event of the year in Nevada, eclipsing even the Super Bowl.

NJ sports betting won’t happen in time for this year’s tournament, but there’s a real possibility it could be available next season. So what would March Madness look like in New Jersey?

Where would March Madness bettors bet?

Atlantic City casinos have begun to prepare for a world in which they can offer sports betting.

Borgata was already exploring a sportsbook as early as November of last year, before the state even presented its case to the court. MGM International VP of Race and Sports, Jay Rood, said the company would invest $7 million in the new book. It’s a big bet on NJ sports betting.

Borgata’s sportsbook won’t be the only one in town, either. The new owner of the Ocean Resort Casino (formerly Revel/TEN) said he wants his book to be the “best in market.” CaesarsGolden Nugget, and Tropicana haven’t announced plans in NJ yet, but the first two operate sportsbooks at their Nevada properties.

And don’t forget about the horse tracks. They’re eager to get into the business, too.

Monmouth Park built the William Hill Sports Bar, and it’s just itching to get the betting windows open. It’s only a bar for now, but the branding tells you all you need to know about the vision. William Hill is one of the largest bookmakers in the world. The property’s CEO, Dennis Drazin, says his track could be accepting bets within weeks of the Supreme Court ruling.

Suffice it to say bettors will have plenty of sportsbooks to choose from. But they may not have to venture to the casino or the track to get their money down on the games.

Mobile betting in the future?

New Jersey is one of six states with new sports betting laws on the books pending the court’s ruling. It’s the law that started everything when it comes to sports betting, inciting the sports leagues to file suit in federal court to block its activation.

As passed, the NJ law does not include provisions for mobile and internet sports betting. It merely repeals the previous prohibitions on wagering, potentially leaving regulation to the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that online and mobile wagers will eventually be a part of NJ sports betting. The state is one of four that’s legalized other forms of internet wagering, including casino and poker. NJ online casinos are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, and the state has become quite adept at managing the digital industry.

If offered as anticipated, mobile platforms would allow wagering anywhere within the state’s borders. Once bettors create an account, they’d be free to roam with a sportsbook in their pocket.

NJ casinos are already starting to partner with providers who can offer sports betting.

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Eventual return of championship events?

New Jersey sports fans can watch March Madness on TV, but they have to cross the river if they want to see a game in person. The NCAA is a plaintiff in the NJ sports betting case, and the adversarial relationship extends outside of the courtroom.

Last year, the league announced the sites for its championship events through 2022. New Jersey was almost totally excluded from the list. It is hosting just two Division III events in volleyball and field hockey.

The NCAA’s executive VP of championships and alliances, Mark Lewis, kept no secrets about the decision. He cited this league policy:

No pre-determined or non-predetermined session of an NCAA Championship may be conducted in a state with legal wagering that is based on single-game betting on the outcome of any event in a sport in which the NCAA conducts a championship.

That prohibition extends to Nevada, where Las Vegas is as qualified as any city for a top-level NCAA championship event. The brand-new T-Mobile Arena is a world-class venue, and the city’s tourism infrastructure could support anything the NCAA could throw at it.

Although the league is trying to avoid sports-betting states, some of those selected as future March Madness site may legalize it in the meantime.

Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana and a handful of others are all on the list and moving toward legalization. PA sports betting is law, poised to roll out this year or next. New York is a big one, too. Would the NCAA really keep its games out of the largest market in the country?

It seems possible that the NCAA could eventually return to NJ once the dust from the Supreme Court decision settles. But it won’t be until at least 2023.

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Eric Ramsey

Eric is a reporter and writer covering the NJ gambling industry, online poker, sports betting regulation, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.

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