National News

A Sports Gambling Ban Was Overturned, but Can You Bet on Tonight’s Game?

Posted May 14, 2018 9:48 p.m. EDT

The Supreme Court struck down a federal law that banned legalized sports betting Monday, ending a lengthy legal battle in New Jersey that began after the state tried to legalize betting in 2012.

So does this mean that people can now rush off and plunk down $100 on a National Basketball Association playoff game at an Atlantic City casino or from a smartphone?

The answer is not simple.

— Can I bet at a casino or track in New Jersey?

Not yet. According to state law, possible betting venues, which include racetracks and casinos, could begin accepting unregulated bets as soon as Monday, though gearing up to do so could realistically take time.

Of the state’s potential betting sites, Monmouth Park Racetrack, near the Jersey Shore, is the furthest along, having partnered with a British bookmaker, William Hill, years ago to build a sports bar in anticipation of sports betting being legalized. The track also adopted its own regulations to abide by any potential ruling.

But because Monmouth Park was waiting on the court’s decision, it held off taking final steps, and the technology and training needed for a full operation is not ready, said Dennis Drazin, the park’s operator.

“It’s my intention, unless somebody stops us, to be up and running in two weeks,” Drazin said at a news conference at the track Monday.

Drazin said he might be willing to take some hand bets on a specific game or a few ceremonial bets to mark the occasion, but eager bettors will still have to wait until the technology is in place.

The New Jersey Legislature will still need to pass legislation setting up licensing, tax and regulatory rules. On Monday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy and Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, said they would act quickly to move legislation on sports betting, which could generate significant and much-needed revenue for the state.

On Monday, Sweeney introduced a draft bill and said that he planned to have a version ready for a vote at the next available session on June 7. “I expect this to move very fast,” Sweeney said.

Atlantic City’s seven casinos will also have to decide when to begin accepting sports bets, though they would quite likely wait until state regulations are in place.

“We look forward to working with legislators and policymakers to achieve a regulatory outcome that benefits states and consumers alike while ensuring the integrity of sports,” MGM Resorts International, which operates the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, said in a statement.

Additionally, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, a Democrat who is working on the state legislation, said that off-track betting windows in New Jersey, known as OTBs, could also potentially take sports bets.

The complications in ushering in sports betting are rooted in the twists and turns of the legalization effort in New Jersey.

In 2011, voters approved a referendum supporting the legalization of sports betting in the state, challenging a 1992 federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, which prohibited such gambling.

The following year, the state passed a law setting up rules and regulations for casinos and racetracks to handle sports bets. The major sports leagues sued New Jersey, and a federal appeals ruled that New Jersey’s efforts at legalization were violated federal law.

So the state Legislature passed another law in 2014, repealing the 2012 efforts and instead simply eliminating the prohibition on sports betting at casinos, racetracks and former racetracks. This left it to individual venues to create their own regulations. This effort was also struck down by a federal appeals court, before the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

— Can I bet online in New Jersey?

Not yet, though the infrastructure already exists.

New Jersey currently allows online gambling on games such as poker, and many Atlantic City casinos offer their own betting apps. So the kind of technology that would most likely matter to regulators — geo-fencing to ensure that bets are only placed within the state, protection from hackers and a fair system — is largely in place.

— Can I bet online if I live outside New Jersey?

For now, no — gamblers will need to physically be in New Jersey (or any other state that moves to legalize sports betting) to place a wager.

The ruling, while declaring the federal ban on legalization unconstitutional, still leaves the decision whether to allow sports betting to individual states.

— How does this affect my state?

While New Jersey was the victor in the Supreme Court decision, other states have been angling to get a piece of the $150 billion Americans wager illegally on sports each year.

In New York, state Sen. John Bonacic, R-Hudson Valley, who is the chairman of the state Senate’s racing, gaming and wagering committee, said that while the state’s Gaming Commission could set regulations to allow sports wagering in New York, he intended to put in legislation next week to speed the process along, with an eye toward being ready for pro football — a big betting sport — in the fall.

“It’s big business,” Bonacic said. “And if we don’t do it, every state around us will do it, and they’ll continue to eat our lunch.”

Mississippi, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have also passed laws that would legalize sports betting, and more than a dozen other states have introduced bills to legalize it.

New Jersey has the advantage since it has been laying the foundation for years.

— Does anything change for those who just want to watch the game?

Besides the ads you see and an increase in gambling lingo, not much. The crawl on sports networks like ESPN may undergo some changes, with betting odds and other information valuable to gamblers appearing more often.

— Will this make point shaving or match-fixing more or less likely?

Most people believe that bringing gambling into the light and allowing it to be monitored will decrease point shaving because there are algorithms that can detect betting irregularities that suggest possible rigging.

— I’ve heard that in-game betting is all the rage in Europe. How does it work?

Using apps, fans bet on everything from who will score the next goal to who will commit the next foul. They do this while sitting in the stands or in front of their televisions.

— Will this be just a state thing, or will the federal government get involved?

The Supreme Court specifically noted that Congress could pass legislation to regulate sports gambling. The NBA and NFL have specifically called for it, but that would probably take some time.

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