Senate bill comes from president Stephen Sweeney
Legal Sports Report

William Hill Says NJ Sports Betting Could Launch In Weeks; New Senate Bill Drops

NJ sports betting monmouth park

The federal ban on sports betting is dead, and New Jersey residents could jump into the game within weeks.

William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said Monday morning that his company stands just weeks from going operational at Monmouth Park. Asher said his staff will fly Tuesday to New Jersey to make final preparations at the racetrack’s new sportsbook.

That team will work to get Monmouth Park open “as soon as possible,” Asher said.

On Tuesday, William Hill and Monmouth announced May 28 as the tentative date for the first wagers to be taken.

It all comes as a new sports betting bill has surfaced in the Senate to regulate NJ sports betting from Senate President Stephen Sweeney. By later in the week, it appeared the brakes were being pumped on the expedited timeline. Provisions in the legislation would mean that anyone operating a sports pool before the new law kicks in would not be licensed.

What needs to be done to get Monmouth Park up to speed

William Hill will work in partnership with Monmouth Park to operate the sportsbook business at the horse racing track.

“Tomorrow the hard work is going to begin to get ready to open for business at Monmouth Park,” Asher said.

Asher said Monmouth Park’s infrastructure work mostly is done and the sportsbook is fully built out. Some unspecified equipment still needs to be shipped out. A source tells Legal Sports Report that Monmouth Park plans to be open for sports betting business within two weeks.

That same plan remains in place from years earlier. Dennis Drazin, CEO of the company that runs Monmouth Park, took a leading role in New Jersey’s battle to legalize sports betting, dating back to legislation passed in 2012. That came a year after state voters repealed a constitutional ban on sports betting, paving the long path to Monday.

William Hill gambled on a sports betting expansion and won

The bookmaker appears poised to cash on a $5-10 million wager it placed on a Supreme Court repeal of PASPA. That ticket became a winner Monday when the high court struck down the country’s federal sports betting ban.

“We made the bet that we wanted to be ready in the event that the Supreme Court ruled for us,” Asher said. “We didn’t want to wait and start figuring it out today; we were working on this going back to the beginning of the year.”

Asher anticipates New Jersey could become a $10 billion sports betting market in terms of total amount wagered — in short order. That would represent twice the size of annual handle in Nevada sports betting, not a surprise with the population of the tri-state area. Given previous legislative movement, Connecticut and New York might be close behind New Jersey in the race to legalize post-PASPA.

Connecticut could consider a special session to clear up its sports betting situation. New York will need to hustle before the impending June 20 end of its legislative session.

New law and rules in New Jersey as well

NJ will need further legislation to establish the set up for today’s environment. Casino operators and state regulators need to know the landscape in which they are operating. How and if the state will allow sports wagering without new legislation that actually regulates and taxes the industry is unknown.

A bill introduced into the state legislature in April attempts to make those rules. Here is some of what’s in the bill:

  • Puts regulation of sports betting under the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).
  • Allows wagering at any Atlantic City casino or racetrack in the state, or via mobile wagering.
  • The New Jersey Racing Commission would be involved in approving the operation of a sportsbook at a track or “any agreement between a casino and a racetrack to jointly operate a sports pool.”
  • Bans wagering on college events that take place in New Jersey, or on college events involving a New Jersey-based school.
  • Gross revenue from sports wagering at casinos and tracks will be subject to an eight percent tax. Online sports betting revenue is taxed at a rate of 12.5 percent. Casinos also pay an additional “investment alternative tax.”

A new bill was also introduced on Monday by Sweeney. While the bill does not yet appear online, LSR obtained a draft of the bill, which you can see here.

That bill has similar elements to the earlier Assembly bill, but the tax on casinos and tracks is different (9.25 percent for land-based, 17.5 percent for online.) The bill also allows for no more than two individually branded websites, or skins, per sports betting licensee.

As for DGE, it reportedly began encouraging operators at apply for licensing way back in February. The DGE has had no comment for LSR on what’s next for New Jersey.

Adam Candee
- Adam Candee covers sports business and news from Las Vegas. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun and KLAS-TV.