Legal Esports Betting? Looks Like New Jersey Regulators Just Gave The Green Light

Written By Dustin Gouker on June 13, 2018

A new law to legalize and regulate New Jersey sports betting seemingly included a ban on esports betting. Until regulators got a hold of it.

Now, it looks like wagering on professional esports competitions such as League of Legends and Overwatch is just fine in the state. So what happened?

The backstory on NJ and esports betting

The NJ sports betting law — enacted on Monday — had many believing it had made it all but impossible for any sportsbook in the state to take bets on esports.

More on the esports portion of the law here. And here’s what the law actually says:

“A prohibited sports event includes all high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games but does not include international sports events in which persons under age 18 make up a minority of the participants.”

So that seems bad for esports. Or perhaps not.

NJ sports betting regulations come out

On Wednesday, the NJ Department of Gaming Enforcement put out its emergency regulations.

And the funny thing about esports betting: It’s not banned. “Electronic sports” makes two appearances in the regulations, and it makes it quite clear that betting on pro esports is OK:

“Sports event” means any sport, athletic contest or athletic event not prohibited by the Director, including all professional electronic sports and competitive video game events that are not sponsored by high schools, do not include high school teams, and do not include any participant under the age of 18 years.

And then:

A “prohibited sports event” includes all high school sports events, including high school electronic sports events and high school competitive video game events, and any electronic sports event in which any participant is 17 years old or younger.

So how did we get from doom and gloom to this? It appears regulators interpreted the statute in such a way that “electronic sports” is a modifier of the ban on “high school” and only applies to that.

Either way, for those hoping to see esports betting expand in the US, the new regulations were welcome news.

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So will there be NJ esports betting?

It’s not clear how quickly that might happen in the state. Nevada, for its part, has been slow to adopt esports betting, only booking wagers on the biggest events once in awhile.

But in Europe, esports betting is big business online and via mobile devices. There are even websites that only book esports matches.

Could you start seeing betting on esports in New Jersey and elsewhere in the near future? It’s at least possible, especially when online wagering goes live — as soon as next month — in New Jersey.

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Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about online poker and the online gambling industry since 2008.

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