Sports Betting in Atlantic City is a Go!
Updated 5/22/18 and 5/30/18
Just when Atlantic City is gearing up for the opening of not one, but two new casinos on June 28, another monumental happening has eclipsed that news as the past weeks’ headlines. The long standing federal ban on sports betting in all but four states under the provisions of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) has been found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Accordingly, on Monday, May 14, by a 6-2 vote, the Court rendered the historical decision to overturn the federal ban on sports betting and give individual states the power to set their own policies.
Anticipating this decision, NJ legislators and Atlantic City casinos already have plans in the works. It is anticipated that sports betting could be up and running in Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks, by the early part of June.
The lifting of the federal ban means that individual states are free to implement their own legislation to introduce, regulate, and tax legal sports betting in their jurisdiction with no federal government interference.
Why the Case Had to Go All the Way to the Supreme Court
The long path to getting PASPA overturned has not been easy. It is to the credit of former Governor Christie and other NJ government officials that they didn’t give up, even in the face of fierce opposition from the sports leagues, but pursued every avenue of appeal available to them.
Back in 2011, when the possibility of permitting legalized sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks was presented to NJ voters, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of creating a constitutional amendment to allow it. Then in 2012, the State Legislature passed the Sports Wagering Act and Governor Christie signed it.
However, the law was challenged by all five major sports leagues. So in 2014, New Jersey tried a differently tactic of repealing its own law banning sports betting at casinos and racetracks. When that approach also failed, New Jersey took the matter to the Supreme Court.
In the words of former Governor Christie, “New Jersey citizens wanted sports gambling and the federal government had no right to tell them no.”
New Jersey Has a Head Start Over Other States
It may take months before some states will actually be able to offer sports betting as an option. However, New Jersey, which has been in the forefront of the fight to get the ban lifted for some time, is wasting no time. Everything should be in place for Atlantic City casinos to open state-of-the-art Las Vegas type sportsbooks on the premises in the very near future.
During the week preceding the Supreme Court ruling, new legislation had already been proposed in the State Assembly. This was followed by a similar bill being introduced in the State Senate within hours of the Supreme Court decision.
The Senate bill, which is expected to be approved at the next session on June 7 and then signed by Governor Murphy, would allow the State government to authorize, regulate, and tax sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks. According to Senate President Steve Sweeney, the bill’s primary sponsor, New Jersey has a distinct advantage with its long history of state regulated casino gambling, which will facilitate a “natural transition to incorporate sports gambling by the casinos and the racetracks.”
Governor Phil Murphy praised the action by the Supreme Court and promised to work with the State Legislature to ensure that fully authorized and regulated sports betting can be operational in the state as soon as possible.
What Types of Sports Betting Will the NJ Casinos and Racetracks Offer?
Most likely, the available options will be comparable to the standard types of bets offered at other sportsbooks. In other words, you should be able to bet on both college and professional sports and horse races, along with golf, contact sports, and designated non-American sports events. Over-under bets, propositions, and teasers and parlays will probably be accepted as well.
While there is no official word as yet as to exactly when when sports betting will become an option at specific casinos, I wouldn’t be surprised to see sports bets being taken very soon at all of the casinos, including the two new ones.
Ocean Resort Casino Intends for its Sportsbook to be State-of-the-Art
Bruce Deifik, head of AC Ocean Walk, owner of Ocean Resort Casino, indicated even before the Supreme Court ruling came through, that offering a state-of-the-art sportsbook on site as soon as possible was going to be a top priority. Frank Leone, CEO of Ocean Resort Casino, has since added that the new casino hotel plans to install a 7,500 square-foot sportsbook in the center of the casino floor. Ocean Resort Casino has further announced that it is partnerning with the global sportsbook giant William Hill to bring this plan to fruition.
When all is said and done, the intention is to “offer a best-in-class sports sports betting experience in a high-energy, highly engaging environment.” Customers will literally be able to “walk 10 feet from a table game or slot machine and place a sports wager.
Other Atlantic City Casinos and the Major NJ Racetracks Are Expected to Do Likewise
Monmouth Park Racetrack is another facility with big plans. While the track’s sports bar will serve as a temporary sportsbook, the ultimate plan is to create a brand new $5 million Las Vegas style sports betting facility. Like Ocean Resort Casino, Monmouth has partnered with the U.S. division of William Hill.
The Borgata in Atlantic City is not wasting any time getting ready either. It will be renaming its race book (currently the only one remaining in Atlantic City) the Race & Sports Book and will start taking sports bets on the very first day it gets the official go ahead. Borgata’s parent company MGM International, which operates multiple Las Vegas sportsbooks will be working closely with the Atlantic City casino to build a new state-of-the-art sports betting facility there as well.
Rummy Pandit, Executive Director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, & Tourism at Stockton University anticipates that the Las Vegas sportsbooks will serve as a model that all of the Atlantic City casinos will want to emulate and even improve upon. He points out that the Atlantic City casinos may be even better equipped than their Las Vegas counterparts to incorporate food and beverage service into the physical design and thereby create “a fully social and immersive experience for their guests.”
Pandit envisions the Atlantic City sportsbooks becoming “hubs of activity and energy” that can be a big boost to the casino’s business.
Will Online and Mobile Sports Betting Also Be an Option?
Apart from the Atlantic City casinos and the state’s two major racetracks–Monmouth and the Meadowlands–online and mobile betting will probably become another option for those who want to bet sports in New Jersey. However, the online casinos would have to apply for and receive additional licenses. It could be a month to several months before that happens, and even then, no wagers will be permitted from out of state. Ocean Resort Casino hopes to be offering online and mobile sports betting by June 28, when the property is scheduled to open in Atlantic City, but that may be overly optimistic. I predict that online and mobile sports betting will be up and running in New Jersey before the start of the football season. The legislation drafted by the State Senate and Assembly calls for online sports wagers to be taxed at a rate of 12.5 percent and those made at casinos and racetracks to be taxed at a lower 8 percent rate.
Summary and Conclusion
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn PASPA is going to make the already huge sports industry even bigger. According to the UNLV Center for Gaming Research, legal sports betting in Nevada last year amounted to nearly $5 billion. However, that figure still paled in comparison to what was wagered on sports illegally in this country.
The New Ruling is a Major Victory Both at the State Level and for the American People
Now that many more people will be able to place the same bets legally, New Jersey and other states will finally be able to reap the benefits. A 2017 report from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimated that legal sports gambling has the potential to grow into a $6-$16 billion industry. The report also predicted that within the next five years as many as 32 states would offer it.
American Gaming Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman called the Supreme Court’s decision “a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet on sports in a safe and regulated manner.”
Also a Game Changer for Atlantic City
It is also widely believed that legalized sports betting will greatly benefit the State of New Jersey and be a big game changer for Atlantic City.
Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam believes that “sports betting could generate millions in revenue” for the town”.
State Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli called the May 14 ruling “nothing but good news for New Jersey.”
According to the Casino Association of New Jersey:
“Regulated sports wagering will provide an economic boost for Atlantic City, Atlantic County, and the entire state of New Jersey, generating meaningful tax revenue while supporting local jobs and businesses.”
In Order to Maximize This Opportunity, Atlantic City and New Jersey Must Strike While the Iron is Hot
At the same time, David G. Schwartz, Director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has some important practical advice. According to Schwartz, Atlantic City and New Jersey need to look at the bigger picture and not just the immediate impact that their current position gives them because the monopoly they have now on East Coast sports betting is going to be short-lived.
It is only a matter of time before neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania set up sportsbooks, too. If New Jersey isn’t careful, the competition from these other states could hurt business here. For this reason, Schwartz urges the NJ casinos and racetracks to “create memories for guests that they will remember forever.” Then, even when other options become available, they will continue placing their bets in New Jersey.
This is a developing story. There will be a lot more to report in the upcoming weeks.