Will NJ Really Stop Caesars And MGM From Launching Sports Books?

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States are keeping an eye on New Jersey as they navigate the legislative hurdles towards regulating sports betting in the Garden State.

Most likely, whatever bill passes will be a foundation for legislation in other states. That fact is probably making a few casino owners nervous.

New Jersey’s proposed legislation giving casino owners pause

Proposed language in the current Senate bill under consideration restricts anyone who owns a sports team from accepting sports wagers. Specifically, the proposed legislation reads:

“Any person who is an athlete, coach, referee, team owner, employee of a sports governing body or its member teams, or a player or referee personnel member … shall not be permitted to have any ownership interest in, control of, or otherwise be employed by an operator or a facility in which a sports wagering lounge is located or place a wager on a sports event.”

The integrity of the game is at the heart of the issue. New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is intent on making sure there is enough separation between the interests of team owners and sport books owners.

“There should be a separation. You know, if you own a team, you shouldn’t be allowed to own anything where you take sports bets,” Sweeney said to NJTV. “Because that alone really questions the integrity of sports betting.”

Tilman Fertitta owns the Golden Nugget and the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Currently, Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Nevada doesn’t accept bets on the Houston Rockets.

The language in the bill is seeking more separation than simply not accepting bets for the teams in question.

Other casinos where the “team owner” language comes into play are MGM and Caesars. MGM Resorts International is the owner of Borgata and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. Joshua Harris is the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. Apollo Capital Management, which owns Caesars, was co-founded by Harris.

All three casinos have shared plans to open sports books in New Jersey and other states where they operate – pending legislation.

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The answer is not an integrity fee

While Sweeney is intent on protecting the integrity of the game, he doesn’t think an integrity fee is the answer. He is dead set against including such a fee in the Senate bill.

“They never got an integrity fee from Las Vegas,” Sweeney said to NJ.com. “The Senate is not passing an integrity fee.”

Sweeney has been harsh in criticism of the leagues lobbying state legislators for the addition of an integrity fee. He is urging other states to follow his lead.

“The best way to protect the integrity of sports gaming,” Sweeney said to Insider NJ, “is to make sure there are no conflicts of interest and no competing loyalties on the part of those directly engaged in the athletic events.”

How likely is the bill to pass with the “team owner” language

Sweeney is taking a strong position for a bill that addresses the integrity of the game. The current bill in front of the NJ Assembly doesn’t include the team owner language.

Both Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin are working together to pass legislation by June 7. To make that happen, they are working together to bring one bill before the two houses.

Certainly, casino owners are inserting themselves into the discussion in hopes of softening the language or eliminating it altogether.

Surely, the bill will include some measures directed at protecting the integrity of the game. What that looks like remains unknown.

The leagues are now lobbying for federal legislation. Strong protections for the game at the state level may make it harder to take up the issue on the national level.

If the Senate and Assembly agree on a bill and it passes both houses by June 7, expect the first sports wager to happen soon after.

Until then, it’s wait and see as to how it will impact casino owners.

About

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at kimyuhl.com.