NJ Sports Betting Bill Clears Legislature, Heads To Governor For Signature

Written By Eric Ramsey on June 7, 2018

New Jersey lawmakers have sent a final sports betting bill to the governor.

The two chambers each heard and voted on a matching piece of legislation this afternoon, aimed at cementing the pillars for NJ sports betting. The Assembly bill was amended on the floor before it passed 73-0. Applause filled the chamber as the vote was announced. A few minutes later, that version was substituted into the Senate, where it passed 37-0.

Last stop: the governor’s desk. Gov. Phil Murphy will sign the bill into law, though there’s some new question about his expected timeline.

No NBA betting at Golden Nugget

Tillman Fertitta is exceedingly wealthy.

He owns both the Golden Nugget and the Houston Rockets, which is a potential conflict of interest for sports betting. In the final version of the bill, NJ regulators will allow the Golden Nugget to operate a sportsbook, but they will not allow it to book action on NBA games.

Tom Pohlman, general manager of the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, was relieved:

“We are grateful to the legislature for listening to our concerns and including the Golden Nugget in the sports betting legislation. We look forward to taking our first bets on professional and college football, baseball, college basketball, soccer, hockey, MMA, etc. While we recognize that today the legislation will prohibit us from accepting wagers solely on the NBA, we hope to persuade the lawmakers over time that the total NBA ban is unnecessary and should be limited simply to the Houston Rockets team owned by Mr. Fertitta.”

The previous version of the bill would have denied Golden Nugget AC a license altogether. Although the restriction was loosened, it’s still tighter than the ones in place at any Nevada sportsbook.

The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas doesn’t book Rockets games, but it does take all other NBA action. MGM owns the Las Vegas Aces WNBA team, so they’re off the board at MGM properties.

Until recently, Caesars wasn’t allowed to take bets on the Boston Celtics and The Palms couldn’t book Sacramento Kings games — two more narrow restrictions (that are no longer in place).

With the prohibition now written into the final bill, the Golden Nugget will face a competitive disadvantage in the NJ market. The NBA is one of the most popular sports for bettors, representing a huge percentage of handle during the early spring months.

Curiously, it looks like MGM will escape this restriction. Its ownership of the Aces makes up less than one percent of its total business, which is grounds for an exemption in NJ.

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Basics of the NJ sports betting bill

The two bills are numbered A 4111 and S 2606. The Senate bill was first modified to match the Assembly version, then substituted entirely. Both chambers needed to approve the same language for the bill to pass in full.

NJ sports betting revenue will be taxed at 8.5 and 13 percent for land-based and online wagering, respectively. Horse racing operators will pay an additional 1.25 percent local tax. All land-based licensees will be permitted to operate up to three skins apiece.

Once signed into law, there will be a 30-day waiting period for online betting. Land-based wagering, however, could start pretty much immediately thanks to a new change. It probably won’t happen, but Monmouth Park would take bets tomorrow if it was allowed.

Although we know Murphy will sign the bill, it’s not clear if he’ll do so immediately. There are some suspicions that he plans to park it on his desk while he negotiates a budget package ahead of the June 30 deadline.

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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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