As expected, it was an eventful week for New Jersey sports betting. Unfortunately, for stakeholders and residents, all the action was bureaucratic in nature.
Yes, the Garden State is now this close to finally offering legalized sports betting at its racetracks and casinos. However, bill A4111, which breezed 73-0 through the state Assembly and 37-0 through the Senate as expected Thursday, now sits on Governor Phil Murphy’s desk awaiting signature.
And when that signature will come remains anybody’s guess for now. Technically, Murphy has 45 days to either put his name to the legislation or veto it.
Timeline for Murphy’s signature somewhat murky
There’s no concern that Murphy will nix the bill, especially considering New Jersey’s long legal battle and the fact he’s been a supporter of legal sports betting in the past. However, there’s been a bit of mixed messaging on exactly how quickly he’ll be to act.
On the one hand, Murphy, in reference to enacting the legislation, has emphasized that he’s “not sitting on it” and added that the state will have legalized sports betting “sooner rather than later.”
On the other, he also insisted that he won’t “change his stripes” by rushing the bill into law without first giving it the same review he would other legislation.
No real surprises in bill’s provisions, with one favorable exception
Provisions in the bill include:
- Casinos taxed at 8.5 percent of revenue, with an additional 1.25 percent fee to help market Atlantic City.
- The 1.25 percent add-on fee for tracks will be jointly absorbed by the host community and the county in which the track operates.
- Online wagering taxed at 13.0 percent of revenue. Online betting won’t begin until 30 days after the law officially takes effect.
- No betting allowed on high school sports, on college events taking place in the state, or on any sporting event involving a New Jersey-based school, regardless of where the event takes place.
The failure of one clause to make the final version of the bill elicited a sigh of relief from Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget Casino. A previous requirement that any entity that owned greater than a 10.0 percent stake in a professional sports team would not be able to hold a sports betting license was amended before the deciding vote was taken. Its final iteration only restricts the licensee from taking bets in the sport in which they have an interest.
That frees up the Golden Nugget – whose owner, Tilman Fertitta, also owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets – to accept wagers on any sport other than the NBA.
Plenty of potential sports betting venues await New Jersey residents
Once legislation is officially in place, New Jersey residents will plenty of potential options as far where they’ll be able to wager.
The following New Jersey casinos are currently open or will soon be open:
- Bally’s/Wild West Casino
- Caesar’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino
- Golden Nugget Atlantic City
- Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City (expected to open June 2018)
- Hard Rock Casino at Meadowlands
- Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
- Ocean Resort Casino (expected to open June 2018)
- Resorts Casino Hotel
- Tropicana Casino and Resort Atlantic City
The following racetracks are currently open in New Jersey:
- Freehold Raceway
- Meadowlands Racetrack (Betfair notably announced a partnership with the track Thursday)
- Monmouth Park Racetrack
Racetracks forced to apply the brakes on kickoff
As of late Thursday, there’d been rumblings that Monmouth Park might begin taking bets at its William Hill-operated sportsbook on Friday at 5 p.m. local time. A weekend that includes a Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees, the Belmont Stakes, at least one game of the NBA Finals and the French Open loomed as a potentially lucrative launching pad for legalized wagering in the state.
Those plans were doused with a jarring shot of cold water late Thursday when the New Jersey Racing Commission sent a letter to the racetracks warning them to hold off on accepting wagers until Gov. Murphy signed legislation.
The letter from Racing Commission Executive Director Frank Zanzuccki warned of disciplinary action for any entity that jumped the gun, and read, in part:
“The conduct of sports wagering-related activities by persons or entities prior to the final passage of this legislation may bear upon their suitability for licensure under the anticipated law. It should be fully understood that any improprieties or adverse conduct related to any unregulated activities would have the potential to jeopardize their ability to be licensed for sports wagering under the new law.”