Sports Bill Finally Passes In New Jersey

Ventnor City, New Jersey - September,2020: View from above a long beach at low tide from Ventnor City to Atlantic City showing large casino buildings in the distance

New Jersey took another step into the future of online sports gambling when lawmakers recently passed Bill A637. The bi-partisan bill, known casually as the eSports Betting Bill, was first introduced to state officials in January 2020 and has generated a great deal of attention from that moment. Some of that attention has been deserving, while some have not. But that is to be expected with any kind of controversial law. What the bill does is focus on the definition of sporting events. Essentially, Bill A637 revises and expands that definition to clarify what sporting events are under the New Jersey sports betting regulations. The expanded part of the definition includes eSports.

The Bill Is Still Not Law, But It Is Closer

What happened with Bill A637 is a long journey, such as the case with any bill introduction at the legislative level. In July 2020, the bill receive unanimous support from the New Jersey Assembly. The most recent step in the process was Senate approval, which the bill now has. Once it becomes law, the eSports Betting Bill authorizes operators to accept wagering on eSports, but with a limit of $100 and a potential winning maximum of $500. Although that may sound restrictive, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has hinted that those limits may be increased if the bill is sanctioned by the regulatory body.

Previous to Bill A637, sportsbooks in the state were permitted to accept eSports bets, but only if state regulatory approval was in place. The DGE provided that in November 2019 when the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City accepted the first-ever New Jersey eSports wager. It was on the League of Legends World Championship finals. That was following in September 2020 when wagers were accepted by licensed operators on the VIE.gg Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Legend Series. How those events fared in the generation of gambling revenue is unknown.

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New Jersey Has Been Supportive Of Sports Betting

Sports betting is nothing new to New Jersey. The state played an important role in the overturning of PASPA by the Supreme Count in May 2018. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was an Act that prohibited sports gambling under state law. A few states fought that decision, with New Jersey making most of the noise seeing a future in gambling revenues coming directly from sports betting. It was not an easy sell, but the Supreme Court dropkicked PASPA, which opened the doors for sports betting. Most recently, New Jersey has been pushing the envelope on how regulated eSports betting should be and has gone as far as the state launching an initiative in September 2020. The concept was to curate and support those businesses that sped up the development of the eSports industry in the state. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) took the lead on the program which was formed as a collaboration between that body and stakeholders, and other groups supporting eSports activities. The primary focus of the initiative is eSports wagering.

Why Is eSports Such A Big Deal?

Well, you have to give the internet some credit. Not only has it changed the way we do things like communicate, shop, seek information, and get entertained, it has given the gambling industry a whole new stream of revenue. Online casinos with online slots are not there just for fun (sorry to spoil that for you), but it is big business. The same goes for sportsbooks where bettors can drop a few wagers on the big game. It only makes sense that electronic sports and regular sports all become part of the big happy family known as the gambling industry. There is very little difference between the two, except some people, like to call one “real’ sports, but will wager on either if given a chance. And that is really the nuts and bolts of the whole idea behind Bill A637. Sports are sports. Sports betting is sports betting.

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There should be no separation between what is electronic sports and what is not. A sports fan is there for the spirit of competition. One of the assemblymen who has been in support of the eSports Betting Bill stated, “Whether they follow along online or in person, hundreds of millions of people watch eSports each year – and that number is only growing.” He added, “This bill will amend our existing sports betting law to include eSports and ultimately expand on the industry to make it more successful.” In the words of one of the bill sponsors, Deputy Majority Leader Eric Houghtaling (D), “With online sports betting now legal in New Jersey, a large number of people already interested in this type of gaming and a lack of physical sporting events to bet on right now due to the pandemic, the time is right for us to expand legal wagering beyond traditional sports.”

Final Thoughts

New Jersey is a leader in sports betting. The most recent figures released by the DGE are for May 2021 and show a handle of $814.2 million in sports betting alone. That translates to be the state’s fifth-highest monthly total ever and is the ninth month in a row that New Jersey has recorded a handle of more than $740 million. For comparison, no other state where sports betting is legal has passed a total higher than $660 million. To date, New Jersey has taken a total of $1.72 billion in gaming revenue in 2021, up considerably from the $929.7 million collected over the same period a year ago.

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Is there any wonder why there is a push to have eSports included in the action? With eSports wagering on the radar, New Jersey is not only breaking new ground, but the state lawmakers are paving the way for other states to jump on board and take advantage of the readily available technology. There is no other way to look at Bill A637 as anything else but a win-win for all involved – the state lawmakers, the gambling venue operators, and the gamblers.