N.J. plans regs for sports betting

May 8, 2018 3:00 AM

The prospect of legal sports betting in New Jersey continues to have a high level of interest among those who hope to get everything in place to welcome this new revenue producer to the state.

The “draft” of a plan for regulating legal sports wagering floated out of the State Assembly last week and will presumably be filed as a bill as soon as the U. S. Supreme Court makes this possible by ruling in the state’s favor on New Jersey’s bid to overturn the restrictions in the 1992 legislation barring states from competing in wide open sports betting that exists only in Nevada casinos.

Keeping in mind that the draft has not yet been filed, it calls for a 12.5 percent tax on sports betting revenue. Books would be located in casinos and at racetracks anywhere in the state.

What does the pending Supreme Court decision from the court have to do with Nevada?

A lot probably, since operators of several major AC resorts – Caesars, the Golden Nugget and MGM – are based in Nevada besides also operating casinos in states that are likely to jump into sports betting should the court rule in the state’s favor. When that occurs, if it does, the European companies that have set up shop in Las Vegas waiting for expansion opportunities in the U.S. will move quickly.

Another likely winner: Reno-based Eldorado Resorts, which owns regional casinos across the country but is not yet in Las Vegas, may have found itself at the right time. It recently bought the operating assets of Tropicana Entertainment, including Tropicana Atlantic City, Tropicana Evansville, Lumiere Place, Tropicana Laughlin, Trop Casino Greeneville and The Belle of Baton Rouge, and leases the real estate of these properties from Gaming and Leisure Properties. The Tropicana in Las Vegas is still operated by Penn National Gaming.

The draft that began circulating last week was put together by “several members of the Assembly” according to a source familiar with the campaign that began about six years ago after former governor Chris Christie and other business and government leaders decided sports betting would give the slumping casino business a helpful shot in the arm.

New Jersey had a previous chance to have sports betting installed at the casinos in 1992 when the Professional and Amateur Sports Preservation Act (PASPA) was approved. The state was given a one year window of opportunity to get it done but Republican leaders passed on that, figuring it would bring out too many Democrats in the next election, inner city residents lured to the polls by the sports betting proposal.

But sports wagering was a secondary consideration in the early 1990s. There were no loud voices with a sense of the future and Nevada officials were quite happy to keep things the way they were.

Ultimately, it was Christie’s support of the proposed change that made a difference, creating widespread debate that quickly snowballed. The soaring popularity of fantasy sports wagering – popularity that saw major league teams sign marketing deals with fantasy operations – pushed everything to a level that has even top officials in the major leagues of professional sports sounding like a new day is near.

Major sports leagues from the NFL to Major League Baseball were totally opposed to New Jersey’s proposal initially, but the landscape has changed. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was even a speaker at last year’s groundbreaking in Las Vegas for the stadium that is to be the new home of the Raiders, who are authorized to  move from Oakland in 2019.

He made the Las Vegas move sound like the best thing to happen to the league since free beer night.

And now that the Golden Knights are the hottest ticket in the NHL, all these worn out arguments about sports betting spoiling the pristine image of sporting events are as outdated as a horse and buggy on I-15.