Proposed sports betting legislation in New Jersey could keep casino operators who own sports franchises from offering any sports betting. That would seemingly affect more than half the casinos in Atlantic City.
A provision in the Senate version of the bill appears to restrict team owners from offering wagers on all sports. This could snare operators including MGM Resorts, Caesars (owner of Bally’s and Harrah’s) and Golden Nugget, all of which have at least indirect ownership stakes in pro teams.
New Jersey is pushing to become the first state outside Nevada sports betting to offer single-game wagering following the repeal of PASPA. Monmouth Park targeted May 28 to open, but this legislative push likely moves the date into early June.
What the bill could do to trip up team owners
Any person who is an athlete, coach, referee, team owner, employee of a sports governing body or its member teams, or a player or referee personnel member, on any sports event overseen by that person’s sports governing body based on publicly available information, a person with access to certain types of exclusive information, or a person identified by any lists provided by the sports governing body to the division and the racing commission shall not be permitted to have any ownership interest in, control of, or otherwise be employed by an operator or a facility in which a sports wagering lounge is located or place a wager on a sports event. Any person who violates this paragraph shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense and shall be fined not less than $500 not more than $1,000.
The “team owner” language causes the problem. MGM Resorts owns the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, while Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta also owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Caesars Entertainment is owned by Apollo Capital Management, a private equity firm co-founded by Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Joshua Harris.
What they’re saying
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney told NJTV that team owners should not operate sportsbooks.
“There should be a separation. You know, if you own a team, you shouldn’t be allowed to own anything where you take sports bets,” Sweeney said. “Because that alone really questions the integrity of sports betting.”
MGM owns Borgata, while Golden Nugget and Caesars both operate branded properties in Atlantic City. MGM issued a statement last week regarding the overall situation in New Jersey:
“We are at the table and working closely with New Jersey legislators to authorize a regulated sports wagering marketplace. Once established, we are committed to being the market leader in sports wagering, utilizing our decades of experience in Nevada.”
Clearly, the casinos in question would like to take out any uncertainty about who can offer sports wagering. No such provision exists in the Assembly version of the bill.
This would go much farther than current restrictions
Fertitta already addresses the situation at the Golden Nugget in Nevada by declining to take wagers on the Rockets. Applying the proposed New Jersey rules to the situation, Golden Nugget apparently would not be able to offer any sports wagering.
New Jersey needs legislation to govern sports betting after partially repealing the state’s ban on sports wagering in 2014. That move began the state’s legal battle that resulted in the Supreme Court decision to legalize sports betting last week.
New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement will write regulations to govern sportsbooks based upon whatever new law passes.