Reacting to the decision by the United States Supreme Court, the state of New Jersey – the state the brought the lawsuit that pushed the decision by the SCOTUS – has been quick to bring to life their sports betting industry. Casinos are having to make some moves also, such as the decision by the Golden Nugget Atlantic City to move their poker arena to make room for a spanking new sports book.
It Would Explain the Closure…
Back on August 1, the Golden Nugget closed the doors on their poker room, rather unimaginatively named “The Poker Room,” from the third floor of the casino to the fourth floor. Officials with the Golden Nugget felt that the new sports book would need to be closer to the main casino areas rather than the poker room, thus the change. The new room on the fourth floor replaces an area where a wine bar and Wi-Fi access were offered to customers.
From a look at the photos of the new room, the move was a good one. Excellent tables, plush chairs and a muted two-tone brown décor greet the poker players. It is a makeover that was completed pretty quickly, too; the new room opened up on Friday at 4PM and has proven to be very popular with the players.
All Because of One Law Change
The Golden Nugget, like many of the casinos in Atlantic City, are simply taking advantage of what politicians and attorneys in New Jersey have been working for over the last couple of decades. Back in 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which banned sports betting in every state except for Nevada. New Jersey had been offered a “grandfathered” spot on the program but, in a referendum, the citizens of New Jersey rejected a measure that would have legalized sports betting in the state.
Fast forward a few years and the people of New Jersey – not to mention the leadership in Trenton – began to notice the error in their ways. In 2012, the voters reversed their vote and approved a sports betting referendum, which was signed by then-Governor Chris Christie. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement put together regulations on sports betting but, soon after those rules were issued, the sports leagues struck.
The Empire Strikes
As soon as the regulations were posted by the DGE, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) jointly filed a lawsuit seeking enforcement of PASPA on New Jersey. The Garden State sued right back, seeking to have the law either struck down.
For the next six years, the leagues had the upper hand in the case. Both District and Appeals courts found in favor of the sports leagues but New Jersey, and in particular former State Senator Ray Lesniak, continued to rework their laws to figure out a way to make sports betting work with the New Jersey Constitution, which would then also make it pass muster under PASPA. After first being rejected for consideration in 2014, the SCOTUS decided to hear a second case in December 2017.
In that momentous case, the nine Justices of the Supreme Court accepted testimony from New Jersey attorneys and the leagues before coming to their decision in May 2018. In that decision, the Supreme Court found by a 7-2 vote that PASPA was unconstitutional, striking it from the law and allowing the individual states to make their own laws and regulations – or to outright ban the activity, as Utah has done – on sports betting.
Could Sports Betting Become THE Game in New Jersey?
The reason for the rush in getting a live sports book up – most casinos in New Jersey are quickly moving to do just this – is, of course, because of the money. With major population centers in New York City, Philadelphia and other cities nearby, there is a huge market for sports betting in the state. Especially with the NFL season only about a month away, these live sports betting operations for the casinos would love to be active, although they cannot accept bets on New Jersey teams if they are playing inside the state (this would count both the New York Giants and Jets, who play in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands), there would be tremendous action on the games.
How much action are we talking? In Nevada, with a tremendously smaller population than New Jersey, sports betting brought in $250 million in 2017. In slightly more than two weeks (17 days), the DGE reported that New Jersey’s sports betting industry brought in $16.4 million. Extrapolated out to a full year, the revenues would be close to $350 million, possibly making New Jersey the #1 sports betting state in the country.