It may never be legally allowed to issue them, but apparently the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is now inviting casinos, racetracks, and online gambling sites in the state to apply for sports betting operator licenses.
Prominent US gaming lawyer Jeff Ifrah claims to have heard New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck say as much while speaking at the ICE London international business-to-business gaming event this week.
In fact, Ifrah took to Twitter claiming Rebuck said operators who want to participate in the sports betting market should apply for a license now as the state is open to accepting license applications immediately.
Operators who want to participate in the sports betting market should apply for a license now. NJ is ready and open to accepting licenses, says Dave Rebuck, director of New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement speaking at ICE. #ICETotallyGaming #IceGaming
— Jeff Ifrah (@jifrah) February 7, 2018
PASPA, the NJDGE, and sports betting licenses
The NJDGE is a part of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. It was first established in 1977 to ensure the integrity of the casino gaming industry in the state. As such, it handles licensing, regulation, and oversight for all of the state’s casino and gaming operations, including NJ online gambling sites.
It would be the government agency responsible for issuing NJ sports betting licenses. That is, if the state were legally allowed to do so. It currently is not.
A federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) makes sports betting illegal everywhere except Nevada. Various sports lotteries in Oregon, Delaware, and Montana are also exempt from the law, having been grandfathered in.
New Jersey is currently challenging this law in the hope it will be allowed to open up a legal and regulated sports betting market inside the state.
In 2011, the state passed a bill legalizing sports betting at racetracks and casinos. However, major sports leagues in the US filed a lawsuit to stop it.
The new law was struck down in the courts, and after a series of appeals failed, New Jersey took another shot in 2014. Lawmakers passed a sports betting bill, the leagues filed suit, and the courts ruled against New Jersey again.
NJ sports betting and the US Supreme Court
Further appeals were also denied, until the US Supreme Court agreed in June 2017 to hear the state’s case. The court heard oral arguments in December 2017. A decision will be released sometime this summer.
Most experts have New Jersey as a favorite to win the case. A victory would essentially give the state the legal right to issue the sports betting licenses it is now inviting operators to apply for. However, defeat would not exactly kill the idea.
In fact, the state’s hopes for opening up a sports betting market aren’t solely reliant on the Supreme Court.
Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) has introduced legislation to Congress that would repeal PASPA. It would also set up the framework to allow states to legalize and regulate sports betting.
Plus, Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) has asked Congress to hold a hearing on the legality of sports betting.
Who will be the first to apply for a NJ sports betting license?
MGM and its Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa are likely to be one of the first Atlantic City casinos to apply for a sports betting license. It green-lit the construction of a $7 million sportsbook on the property this past November.
In the meantime, Betfair (now FanDuel) could become the first online casino to apply. It’s online gambling software platform provider GAN inked a deal with leading sports betting solutions provider SBTech last month. GAN will soon be making SBTech’s sports betting software available on its platform.