After years of fighting on the front lines to legalize sports betting nationwide, New Jersey is on the threshold of doing just that within its borders.
Garden State lawmakers moved forward with NJ sports betting bills on Monday, and legislation will hopefully be sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk on Thursday.
Murphy did not specify a timeline for his signature, however. And some reports indicated Murphy, who is in the middle of budget negotiations, could wrap the sports betting bill into a larger debate.
New Jersey carried the load in battling sports leagues before the US Supreme Court, which struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on May 14.
And while NJ will not be the first state outside of Nevada to offer single-game wagering — that honor went to Delaware on Tuesday — it will take center stage should legislation become law by the end of this week.
What’s included in the NJ sports betting bill?
Among the items in the amended bill is a basic element: The state would allow for bets to be accepted at the casinos and racetracks beginning immediately. Online and mobile wagering would be available after 30 days.
Bettors would be prohibited from placing wagers on college events staged in the Garden State or on any event — no matter the location — involving a New Jersey collegiate team. Bets would also not be allowed on high school sports.
New Jersey would tax sports betting revenue at an 8.5 percent rate, and online wagering revenue would be taxed at 13 percent.
Also included in the bill is allowing licensees to offer up to three individually branded sportsbook websites. The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement would license and regulate betting.
Integrity fees? That would be a no
An interesting but not surprising omission from the legislation is any mention of integrity fees paid to sports leagues.
When lawmakers convened Monday to discuss legislation, representatives from the NBA, MLB, and PGA Tour made their cases for 0.25 percent of total gaming revenue to be paid to the leagues. The leagues’ argument surrounded the prevention of cheating and match-fixing.
Those representatives told NJ lawmakers that the state’s legislation does not provide them with “the tools” needed to protect their games. Legislators were not in the mood to listen, especially after New Jersey poured $9 million into legal fees after being sued by those same leagues.
“The tool you’re looking for is money,” Assemblyman Ralph Caputo responded. “And that’s not gonna happen. You might as well face reality.”
“You guys are in it for the money,” Caputo said. “You’re not in it to protect anybody. This is hypocrisy. Just a suggestion: You might want to issue a check for $9 million to the state of New Jersey, just for good faith.”
Bill could prevent some casinos from entering the action
A provision in the legislation that remains restricts casino operators who also own franchises from offering wagers on all sports. Any operator who owns a stake of 10 percent or more in a sports franchise will not be authorized to accept bets.
The property most affected by this provision is Golden Nugget, which is owned by Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta. At his Golden Nugget property in Nevada, Fertitta already declines to accept wagers on Rockets games. New Jersey, however, wants to limit sports bets at the Atlantic City casino on all counts.
There are exceptions to this provision. A waiver can be granted if a sports betting licensee owns less than 10 percent of a casino or racetrack. It can also be granted if a sports ownership stake represents less than 1 percent of that licensee’s total business value.
For MGM Resorts, which owns the Borgata, that last exception is a thing of beauty. MGM owns the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. But the Aces’ value for the company should fall well below 1 percent of MGM’s reported $10.8 billion net revenue in 2017.
Any casino operator will have one year from enacted legislation to divulge their franchise ownership stakes in order to offer sports betting.
Monmouth Park ready to roll
Monmouth Park racetrack was set to offer sports betting some six years ago. That is until the sports leagues sued New Jersey.
Now, should NJ pass its sports betting legislation, Monmouth will again be ready to offer sports wagering as soon as Friday, according to Dennis Drazin, the track’s president and CEO. The track already hired about 50 people to handle its sportsbook.
“When Murphy does sign it, we can immediately go to the Racing Commission about a license,” Drazin said on Wednesday. “As we understand it right now, we would go in and they would issue a temporary license and we would open sometime on Friday.”
Monmouth partnered with British bookmaker William Hill to create the William Hill Sports Bar. The racetrack is primed to offer headlining wagers on Game 4 of the NBA Finals as well as that night’s MLB Subway Series matchup between New York’s Yankees and Mets.