Hold Up: NJ Sports Betting Bill May Block Casinos With Ties To Sports Franchises From Taking Bets

Sports betting in New Jersey should be in an all-out sprint after the US Supreme Court cleared the path in last week’s decision.

A hurdle, however, has been placed on the track.

Proposed legislation in the Garden State could prevent some casino operators who also own sports franchises from offering sports betting. While it appears relatively minute on its face, the bill could restrict Atlantic City’s biggest casinos from diving into the sports betting industry.

Breaking down the proposed NJ sports betting provision

When SCOTUS struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (aka PASPA), the high court essentially green-lighted legalized sports betting on a state-by-state basis.

State governments can choose to allow single-game wagering and regulate the industry as it so chooses.

A provision in the NJ Senate bill that allows sports betting would restrict several casinos from offering wagers on all sports:

“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.”

Boiled down, the legislation states that team owners who also own casinos would not be able to take sports bets. This includes:

  • MGM Resorts, owner of the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA
  • Caesars, owned by Apollo Capital Management, which was co-founded by Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Joshua Harris
  • Golden Nugget, owner of the Houston Rockets

Borgata, which is working on building a new sportsbook at its casino and wants to take bets on day one, could also be affected as it is owned by MGM. Violation of this provision would result in a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Interestingly, the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas does not accept wagers on Rockets games. New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, however, said that is not enough restriction.

“There should be a separation,” Sweeney said in a recent interview. “You know, if you own a team, you shouldn’t be allowed to own anything where you take sports bets. Because that alone really questions the integrity of sports betting.”

Why is this provision being proposed?

It is all about maintaining the integrity of sports and sports betting, Sweeney has emphasized. Though he is adamantly against paying the leagues any “integrity fees,” which are basically a slice of the gambling revenue.

In fact, Sweeney has urged other state leaders to unite against the sports leagues “hypocritical attempt to extort” money from sports betting.

That said, Sweeney does believe in protecting the morality of sports betting. Hence the bill’s provision.

“The best way to protect the integrity of sports gaming,” Sweeney said, “is to make sure there are no conflicts of interest and no competing loyalties on the part of those directly engaged in the athletic events.”

Earlier today, Sweeney discussed the possibility of filing suit against the sports leagues for lost tax revenue from NJ sports betting. But he won’t act on that threat without the full support of lawmakers and the governor.

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What’s next for sports betting regulations?

There is no language in the current NJ Assembly bill restricting team-and-casino owners from offering sports betting. As it pushes to become the first state outside of Nevada to offer single-game wagering, New Jersey has been scrambling to lock down legislation and regulatory standards for the industry.

The state Assembly and Senate are continuing to collaborate to draft one bill on which each house can vote. And this provision of banning team owners from offering sports betting at their casinos is still up in the air.

Whichever law passes, New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement will regulate the sports betting industry. The state legislature is expected to vote on a regulatory bill June 7.

Casinos, however, are not going down without a fight. Those properties that are run by team owners are dead set on being a part of the sports betting action.

In a statement, MGM said:

“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.”

About the Author

Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.