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NBA Ban Hurting New Jersey Golden Nugget

July 2, 2019

When the New Jersey legislature was looking at sports betting legislation last year, they had concerns about allowing a casino to accept sports wagers if casino ownership also had ownership interest in a professional sports team. In fact, their concerns may well have been directed at Golden Nugget Atlantic City owner Tilman Fertitta, who also owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

When the legislation passed with the above provision in place, the Golden Nugget was banned from accepting bets on the NBA. With the 2018-19 NBA season finally in the books, the damage of the ban has become quite apparent.

For the first time in US sports betting history, Las Vegas sports books were overtaken by New Jersey sports books in terms of sports betting revenues as reported for the month of May. Unfortunately, the Golden Nugget contributed very little to the record month, finishing dead last in sports betting revenue. The inability to take bets on the NBA playoffs was undoubtedly the issue.

Leveling the Playing Field

When the sports betting legislation passed with the ban in place, Golden Nugget partner SugarHouse Sportsbook jumped ship and went looking for a new partner that had no such bans to endure. This is just one of many things related to this issue that has made it difficult for one New Jersey bookmaker to compete fairly among the competition.

This isn't a new problem. Fertitta also owns the Golden Nugget property in Las Vegas. Perhaps its the decades of experience, but Nevada uses a more practical approach to this issue. In Las Vegas, the Golden Nugget is permitted to take wagers on NBA games, excluding games that involve the Houston Rockets. Clearly, that represents a much fairer option.

The problem is the New Jersey legislature doesn't seem to be overly concerned about leveling the playing field. They are so concerned about any appearance of impropriety that they seemed to have moved a little too far to the right, much to the chagrin of the Golden Nugget and Fertitta.

It's a good bet Fertitta will continue lobbying to have the ban lifted. It would require a new bill be sent to the legislature for consideration and passage. For what it's worth, the original sports betting bill sought to ban sports betting if a casino owner owned more that a 10% interest in a team. The hammer coming down on the Golden Nugget was the compromise.


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