In May of 2018, the state of New Jersey won its decade-long battle against the NCAA and major professional sports leagues in the United States Supreme Court, paving the way for legal sports betting.
As the leader of the fight, it was only fitting that the Garden State become one of the first states to offer widespread sports wagering. With the stroke of a pen on June 11, just four weeks after the federal ban on sports betting (PASPA) fell, it did just that. It was then that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill unanimously passed by the Assembly and Senate that legalizes sports wagering and gives regulatory power to the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).
Today, New Jersey plays host to one of the country’s largest sports wagering industries, encompassing nearly a dozen land-based sportsbooks, and even more online and mobile apps. With so many books available, knowing where to play can be a tough exercise, which is why Sports Handle has put together this comprehensive guide to the industry, including our exclusive power rankings broken down by license holder.
Bet on sports online in NJ now
New Jersey sports betting: by the books
There is no shortage of land-based casinos, horse tracks, and online sportsbooks in which to place a straight, parlay, or teaser. Listed below is a comprehensive table illustrating all the sportsbooks where bettors can wager today.
New Jersey online & mobile sportsbooks
|Provider||Bonus||Licensing Partner||Tech Provider||Mobile?||Integrated Casino?|
|FanDuel||Get Bonus||The Meadowlands||IGT/PPB||Yes||Yes|
|PointsBet||Get Bonus||The Meadowlands||PointsBet||Yes||No|
|DraftKings||Get Bonus||Resorts Digital||Kambi||Yes||Yes|
|FOX Bet NJ||Get Bonus||Resorts Digital||TSG||Yes||Yes|
|William Hill NJ||Ocean/Monmouth Park||William Hill||Yes||No|
|Play SugarHouse||Get Bonus||Monmouth Park||Kambi||Yes||Yes|
|Caesars||Caesars Ent.||Scientific Games||Yes||Yes|
|888 Sport NJ||Get Bonus||Caesars Ent||Kambi||Yes||Yes|
|Hard Rock||Hard Rock||GiG||Yes||Yes|
|Golden Nugget||Get Bonus||Golden Nugget||SBTech||Yes||Yes|
|Bet America||Golden Nugget||SBTech||Yes||Yes|
New Jersey land-based sportsbooks
|The Meadowlands||FanDuel Sportsbook||East Rutherford||Yes|
|Resorts Casino||DraftKings Sportsbook||Atlantic City Boardwalk||Yes|
|Monmouth Park||Monmouth Park Sportsbook by Will Hill||Oceanport||Yes|
|Ocean Casino||William Hill Sportsbook at Ocean Resort||Atlantic City (Boardwalk)||Yes|
|Bally's AC||Wild Wild West Sportsbook||Atlantic City (Boardwalk)||No|
|Harrah's AC||The Book||Atlantic City (Marina)||No|
|Hard Rock Casino||Hard Rock Sportsbook||Atlantic CIty (Boardwalk)||Yes|
|Golden Nugget AC||The Sportsbook||Atlantic City (Marina)||Yes|
|The Borgata||Borgata Race & Sports Book||Atlantic CIty (Marina)||No|
|Tropicana AC||William Hill Sportsbook at Tropicana AC||Atlantic City (Boardwalk)||Yes|
The latest NJ news
The consulting group has been selected to conduct a market gaming study that will center on the implications of mobile betting statewide.
While wagering on golf has historically been limited to win bets the Tour is optimistic that hole-by-hole betting could drive fan engagement.
Though Addabbo's efforts to legalize online sports betting have been met with strong headwinds, he might have an ace up his sleeve in 2020.
New Jersey sportsbook operator power rankings
Presently, the NJ online sports betting industry has been dominated by two license holders, one a horse track with a locational advantage and ties to a daily fantasy sports giant, the other a smallish Atlantic City casino that has linked arms with an even bigger DFS behemoth.
Below we rank licensees based on several criteria, including revenue generated to date, overall market trajectory, quality of the sports betting products, and how many online skins are presently available.
#1 – The Meadowlands Racetrack
- Retail sportsbook: FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands
- Retail launch date: July 14, 2018
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: FanDuel Sportsbook, PointsBet Sportsbook, CG Technology Book (coming soon)
Located in the heart of East Rutherford, The Meadowlands Racetrack was among the first venues to open a sportsbook outside of Nevada, having taken its first wager just two months after PASPA fell. A mere stone’s throw away from New York City, and smack dab in the middle of one of New Jersey’s biggest population centers, the book at the Meadowlands has thrived, pulling in more revenue than any other retail book in the state.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the book is operated by one of the largest worldwide gambling operators in Paddy Power Betfair, which merged with FanDuel in 2018 to create the FanDuel Group. FanDuel, which is among the most popular daily fantasy sports brands worldwide, acts as the forward facing brand of both the Meadowlands’ retail book and its primary online/mobile wagering site.
Supplementing the Meadowlands is its second online skin, PointsBet, an aggressive upstart based in Australia that is taking the NJ online sports betting industry by storm through its clever promos and niche spread betting format, the aptly titled PointsBetting. Together, the duo has skyrocketed to the top of the online sports betting revenue charts, supplanting early frontrunner Resorts Digital (DraftKings Sportsbook and others).
There’s a reason beyond strong branding and a good location as to why the Meadowlands is doing so well, and that’s quality: All of its products boast solid lines, sleek packaging, and are user-friendly. Factor in that the Meadowlands will soon be welcoming CG Technology, which operates books at seven Las Vegas resorts, as a third online partner, and it’s plain as day why the operator grabs the numero uno spot in our rankings.
#2 – Resorts
- Retail sportsbook: DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts
- Retail launch date: November 20, 2018
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: DraftKings Sportsbook, Resorts Sportsbook, FOX Bet Sportsbook NJ
The Kambi powered DraftKings online sportsbook was the first mobile wagering platform to go online in New Jersey, taking its first bets in early August 2018. Being first to market certainly had its perks, as DraftKings was able to leverage its exclusivity and massive existing daily fantasy sports database to much early success. Its meteoric rise also proved a wake-up call to New Jersey casino brands, that the DFS sites were in it to win it.
Since, DraftKings has faltered a bit, due to what we believe is stiffening competition, below average lines relative to the market, and a rather bland user interface. Despite this, it remains among the industry’s revenue leaders, and now also generates a healthy dose of online casino revenue as well (casino games were integrated in December 2018).
BetStars NJ (now FOX Bet) followed as the second skin on the Resorts Digital license in September 2018, receiving its new name after its parent company (The Stars Group) formed a game-changing partnership with FOX Sports the following year.
More recently, Resorts Casino added a sportsbook to its existing iGaming site. The SBTech powered book is promising, regularly offering reduced juice, decent promos, and featuring a sleek interface and fully integrated cashier. But the prop pricing is very poor.
The sole land-based book under the Resorts license is the DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts AC, which launched in December 2018. Although aesthetically impressive, the smallish book hasn’t been a major source of revenue (but still better than some), likely due to its location in one of Atlantic City’s smaller casinos. Some might say that the mediocre lines, the same lines found on DraftKings’ online site, aren’t helping matters.
#3 – Monmouth Park
- Retail sportsbook: Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill
- Retail launch date: June 14, 2018
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: William Hill NJ, Play SugarHouse, theScore (coming soon)
There was perhaps no one more excited about the launch of legal sports betting than Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin. The audacious CEO of Darby Development was readying sports betting at the struggling racetrack well ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision. His gamble paid off, as the Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill was ready to roll as soon as the gavel came down.
The June 14, 2018 launch generated a ton of publicity, and in our opinion, it was warranted, as this wasn’t a half-baked sports betting effort. Instead, the retail Will Hill book is well conceived (albeit quaint) and has proven a solid revenue generator for the state.
On the online front, Monmouth Park licensed sportsbooks perform admirably, although nowhere near as well as Resorts or the Meadowlands. In addition to the William Hill NJ app, which is really about as no-frills as it gets, Monmouth Park picked up Play SugarHouse, after the latter abandoned the Golden Nugget license for sports betting, presumably because Golden Nugget is forbidden from offering NBA lines.
Play SugarHouse, like DraftKings, is powered by Kambi, but the main lines are a tad better. The operator has also fully integrated its sportsbook into its very popular and innovative online casino. And while the sportsbook feels awfully busy, it isn’t afraid to offer all sorts of outlandish props (just be warned about the pricing) and in-game wagers.
Monmouth Park will also host an upcoming online sportsbook from popular sports app provider theScore. It’s yet to be seen what the Bet.Works powered app will look like, but theScore brings a lot of brand recognition to the table, giving it a leg up in the market despite its late arrival.
#4 – Ocean Resort
- Retail sportsbook: William Hill Sportsbook at Ocean Resort Casino
- Retail launch date: June 28, 2018 (temporary), September 1, 2018 (permanent)
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: William Hill NJ
The new William Hill branded sportsbook at Ocean Resort Casino is nothing short of a delight. Coming in at 7,500 square feet, and located smack dab in the middle of the casino floor, this is a book that is clearly meant to be seen. There have been months where the retail book has performed better than any other sportsbook in Atlantic City by a wide margin, which is all the more impressive considering the former Revel Casino ranks dead last in gaming revenue for Atlantic City casinos.
The Will Hill online sports betting app tied to Ocean Resort lacks a lot of bells and whistles but is still a healthy earner for Ocean. Unfortunately, the casino has yet to integrate a sportsbook into its existing (and struggling) online casino site. And with no announcement on when that will happen, Ocean Resort is dependent on online sports betting revenue from just the one skin.
Our advice: Keep your expectations tempered, because in January 2019, just seven months after Ocean Resort Casino debuted, it was sold off to Luxor Capital Group, which seems more concerned with adding a buffet and finishing hotel renovations than adding sports betting skins.
#5 – Caesars Entertainment
- Retail sportsbooks: Wild Wild West Sportsbook, The Book
- Retail launch date: July 30, 2018 (Wild Wild West Sportsbook at Bally’s), August 1, 2018 (The Book at Harrah’s Casino)
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: Caesars Casino & Sports, 888 Sport NJ
Caesars Entertainment actually makes use of two sports betting licenses, one at Bally’s AC and the other at Harrah’s Casino (although ironically, not one for Caesars AC). The two retail books are quaint, and not really big revenue generators, although that could change when Harrah’s unveils its permanent sportsbook (supposedly soon), and Bally’s does the same (later on). Both retail outlets are powered by Scientific Games’ OpenBet tech.
Turning to online, Caesars Entertainment has two skins, both under the Bally’s license. They are Caesars Casino, and 888 Sports NJ. Caesars Casino is the better of the two, as it’s fully integrated into the existing Caesars online casino site, and shares a wallet and loyalty program (Caesars Rewards) with the same. The lines, especially on sports like MLB are really solid. But the problem is the menu of betting options is severely limited; far too limited for a brand that carries the Caesars name.
888 Sport NJ, the third New Jersey online book powered by Kambi, hasn’t gained much traction. A low keyed marketing effort, disjointed interface, lackluster promotions, and mediocre to downright poor betting lines are the likely culprits.
#6 (tie) – Hard Rock
- Retail sportsbook: Hard Rock Sportsbook
- Retail launch date: January 29, 2019 (temporary), April 1, 2019 (permanent)
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: Hard Rock Online Casino, Bet365 (coming in 2019), Kindred (coming in 2019)
Don’t let the middle-of-the-road ranking fool you, as there’s a firm possibility Hard Rock Casino will move up the charts throughout 2019.
Hard Rock’s GiG powered land-based and online sportsbooks launched in tandem, just days ahead of Super Bowl LIII. Clearly a placeholder, the retail book featured no real seating, no video walls, and no bar — three key components for any successful sports betting endeavor. What it did feature is the promise of a new permanent facility, one worthy of the iconic brand.
That permanent book went live on April 1, 2019, and features 3,800 sq. ft of dedicated space, seating for 50, 60 TVs, and a full-service bar equipped with the casino bar mainstay: video poker. It’s not an ideal set-up, as seating is limited and TVs line the wall (as opposed to a video wall), but it’s a massive step up from the temporary sportsbook.
Online efforts so far have been pedestrian, with Hard Rock Casino integrating a half-baked sportsbook into its online casino site. While the online sportsbook does offer all the basic markets and betting formats, the betting lines are just OK, and the pre-game and live betting options are pretty limited. However, expect big moves later on in 2019, as Hard Rock has penned agreements with one of the world’s largest sports betting operators in Bet365, and also with the Kindred Group. Both companies will provide online skins under the Hard Rock license, which on its own should catapult Hard Rock up our power rankings.
#6 (tie) – Golden Nugget
- Retail sportsbook: The Sportsbook
- Retail launch date: August 15, 2018 (temporary), September 1, 2018 (permanent)
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: Play SugarHouse (formerly), Golden Nugget Casino, BetAmerica
Golden Nugget AC was the first Atlantic City-based casino to open a permanent facility, launching just ahead of the 2018 NFL football season. In terms of retail books, we rank Golden Nugget’s efforts as the best Atlantic City has to offer behind Ocean Resort. The book features seating for 100, an impressive 50 TVs, five video walls, self-serve kiosks, and other amenities.
It also doesn’t offer NBA betting, and that’s why the whole licensee gets knocked down a peg (or two). As per NJ regulations, any operator with a major interest in a sports franchise cannot accept wagers on that sport. Well, Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta happens to own the NBA Houston Rockets, explaining why NBA games are off the board.
We believe that the inability to offer NBA games is what also caused Play SugarHouse to switch sports betting licenses from Golden Nugget Casino to Monmouth Park in October 2018. Still, it didn’t prevent Churchill Downs from hopping on the license, via its Bet America skin.
Unfortunately, we see it as unlikely that Golden Nugget’s remaining iGaming skin will ever be occupied due to this damning provision, capping its upside. But who knows?
However, the reason Golden Nugget still holds a middling position in our power rankings (beyond the quality of the land-based book), is that its self-branded online sportsbook is intimately tied to Golden Nugget Casino, which is the biggest generator of iGaming revenue in New Jersey. The crossover potential here is massive. Well, at least it is for sports that aren’t the NBA.
#8 – Borgata
- Retail sportsbook: Borgata Race & Sports Book
- Retail launch date: June 14, 2018 (temporary)
- Online betting: Yes
- Online sportsbooks: BetMGM Sports
When Borgata became the first Atlantic City to launch sports betting operations in June 2018, no one would have predicted they’d end up one creaky floorboard away from the basement, yet here we are.
Fact is the temporary sports betting facility at the Borgata Race & Sports Book is not ideal. The space is far too cramped, and just really isn’t that conducive to sports wagering. On a positive note, parent company MGM has announced an $11 million “sports wagering experience” slated to open in summer 2019. That’s a hefty price tag, but considering the Borgata is by far the most heavily trafficked casino in AC, it should prove well worth it.
So far, online sports betting efforts have been limited, with the Borgata featuring just one online skin: BetMGM Sports, which is deeply tied to BetMGM’s online casino and poker verticals. Although BetMGM was among the first NJ online sportsbook to hit the market (August 2018), it featured a very limited betting menu and wasn’t available on all popular platforms, including desktop. The latter has since changed, but the former not so much.
At least the pricing on the bets BetMGM Sports does offer is decent.
#9 – Tropicana
- Retail sportsbook: William Hill Sportsbook at Tropicana AC
- Retail launch date: October 25, 2018 (temporary), March 8, 2019 (permanent)
- Online betting: No
- Online sportsbooks: N/A
In March 2019, Tropicana became the third venue in NJ to open a fully-fledged William Hill sportsbook, and at 5,000 square feet, it’s nearly as impressive as the one at Ocean Resort. Tropicana AC is a casino on the rise, having undergone multiple renovations as part of a recent revitalization effort.
However, the real money in sports betting is online, so it’s impossible for us to rank Tropicana any higher than last when every other sports betting operation in New Jersey features at least one skin.
Who’s on deck?
In 2019, we expect an influx of temporary books becoming permanent, several new online skins, and possibly the long-awaited opening of a sportsbook at New Jersey’s third racetrack: Freehold Raceway
Permanent books at:
- Harrah’s Casino (Q2 2019)
- Bally’s Wild Wild West (TBD 2019)
- Borgata Casino (Summer 2019)
- Hard Rock Casino (TBD 2019)
- Freehold Raceway (TBD)
Online skins from:
- CG Technology
Word is still out if we’ll see a Borgata branded online sportsbook, a Tropicana online book, and a retail book at Caesars, with the former duo being more likely, and the latter doubtful.
Regulations, taxes, and fees
Under New Jersey law, only qualified casino and racetrack properties can apply for a sports betting license. In addition, anyone hoping to run an online sportsbook must first be partnered up with a license holder.
The tax rate on NJ sports betting was set at 8.5% on gross gaming revenue for land-based casinos and tracks, with tracks paying an additional 1.25% to the Division of Local Government Services in the Dept. of Community Affairs. Later, in October 2018, Gov. Murphy signed off on an additional 1.25% tax to be paid by casino sportsbooks, with the funds allocated for the Casino Reinvestment Development Agency, and used for the purposes of marketing Atlantic City. Online sportsbook pay a flat 13% tax on gaming revenue.
The fee to apply for a sports betting is $100,000.
License holders are limited to three individually branded websites, or skins, each, and only have a 270-day window in which to operate an online book without a retail facility. This hasn’t proven an issue so far, as all license holders went live with retail outlets before going online, or in tandem.
There are a few additional caveats in the regulations that have impacted the industry. For one, any operator with an interest in a sporting franchise cannot take wagers on the league in which that franchise calls home. Additionally, while operators can take wagers on college sports, they are forbidden from taking bets on college games that involve New Jersey teams, regardless of whether they’re played in New Jersey or not.
NJ sports wagering handle
From the inception of sports wagering in New Jersey, there’s been chatter about the Garden State eventually usurping Nevada as the king of sports betting handle. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but the gap is closing.
In just the last six-and-a-half months of 2018, NJ handled $1.25 billion in bets, with completed event revenue over that span clocking in at over $54 million. In November 2018 alone, the industry produced over $330 million in handle, a then record that would stand for just two months before being handily shattered in January 2019 ($385.3 mm).
Suffice it to say, the New Jersey industry is on a steep upward trajectory, with many believing that $500 million in monthly handle is not out of the question in the latter months of 2019. That would place the industry alarmingly close to Nevada, which broke its own handle record in November 2018, taking in a staggering $581 mm in bets.
So far, online sports betting in New Jersey has proven a much more viable revenue stream than retail, with wagers placed from a tablet, smartphone or behind a computer accounting for approximately 80% of the total. Here’s hoping this proves a valuable lesson to states considering sports betting legislation.
Frequently asked questions
Is legal sports betting live in New Jersey?
Yes, and it has been since June 2018 when retail sportsbooks at the Borgata and Monmouth Park began taking bets.
Today’s industry is much larger, with ten land-based books and over a dozen online sites open for business. Expect the online number in particular to swell, perhaps as high as 25 by the time the industry reaches maturity.
Who is eligible to place wagers at NJ sportsbooks?
In so long as you’re the legal gambling age of 21, and not on any voluntary or involuntary self-exclusion lists, you can place wagers at a land-based outlet.
Those looking to place wagers online must be geolocated in the state borders of New Jersey. That doesn’t mean you have to hold residence in the Garden State, but it does mean that you’ll have to have location services activated on your device and that the device must first recognize that you are in fact, in New Jersey.
You do not have to be in New Jersey to skim the betting lines, register an online account, or even make a deposit — only to place real-money wagers.
How do I register for an online sportsbook in New Jersey?
Typically, registering for an online sportsbook entails providing a few pieces of identifying information such as your full name, address, and social security number (usually only the last four digits). The information is then processed by the system for accuracy, and if all checks out, you’ll be good to go.
In order to withdraw from an online sportsbook you may be asked to provide a scanned copy of your driver’s license or another identifying document, and may also have to upload documents that verify the account information tied to your preferred withdrawal method. For instance, those wishing to withdraw via eCheck (ACH) might be asked to upload a copy of a recent bank statement. You will only have to do this one time.
Do online sportsbooks offer bonuses to new players?
One of the key advantages of placing wagers online is that all new players will be entitled to some sort of bonus offer.
The welcome bonus packages themselves vary, with some sites offering a 100% match on first deposits with a rollover requirement, and others a full refund (capped at a certain amount) in the form of site credit, pending a bettor’s first wager loses.
A select few sites may even offer new players what’s called a no-deposit bonus. To claim these, users simply have to sign up for the site, no real-money deposit required.
In order to maximize the amount received, we highly encourage bettors to sign up via one of the links on this page, or through our NJ online sportsbook reviews, as we commonly offer packages that are better than the public offer.
What types of bets are available?
Just like Nevada’s: full-fledged sports wagering on almost every type of game and league under the sun, including the NFL, NBA, NCAA, NHL, Olympics, NASCAR and more, offering:
- Straight bets
- In-game wagering
- Futures bets
How are the betting lines at NJ online sportsbooks?
While there is no easy answer to that question, we can say with clarity that the betting lines hold up remarkably well compared to the Nevada market, which is actually a bit of a surprise considering the higher tax rate.
That said, the pricing does vary quite wildly from site to site, with some operators commonly offering reduced juice on point spreads and totals, but mediocre prop pricing, and others rolling out all sorts of prop boosters, but below average pricing on moneylines. Some offer solid lines across the board, while others are worth taking a complete pass on.
Luckily, New Jersey bettors have plenty of options, and through our reviews, readers will be able to quickly gauge which sites are worth taking a flyer on, and which ones might only be worth it if there’s some sort of promotion going on.
The path toward New Jersey sports betting
New Jersey was the major driving force behind the push for legal sports betting for over a decade. In 2009, the state tried and failed to bring a case challenging PASPA’s constitutionality. A district court dismissed the case for lack of “standing.”
Then in 2011, a public question appeared on New Jersey’s November general-election ballot, asking if the state constitution should be amended to authorize wagering on professional and amateur sports at casinos and racetracks. The referendum passed by a wide 64-36 margin.
Soon after, in 2012, the legislature amended the Casino Control Act and allowed the Casino Control Commission to begin offering licenses to casinos and racetracks to take sports bets. Later, then-governor Chris Christie and the state expressed an intention to go further and enact regulations to allow sports betting in Atlantic City casinos and racetracks, when the NFL, NCAA and other sports leagues sued to block the state from implementing any such sports betting. The leagues won that round and got an injunction in federal court, which stopped New Jersey in its tracks.
The leagues consistently used PASPA to block New Jersey from legalizing sports betting — ostensibly to preserve the “integrity of the game.” But that argument began to crumble in light of several events:
- The leagues embracing and investing in daily fantasy sports
- Leagues holding numerous games and sporting events in Las Vegas
- Moving pro teams to Las Vegas (the NHL’s Golden Knights and the NFL’s Raiders),
- Public remarks and writings in favor of legal sports betting by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
However, the leagues didn’t back down in their legal fight against sports betting.
“Christie I” and the sequel “Christie II”
The lawsuit dubbed “Christie I” began to address the merits of New Jersey’s case and its various constitutional arguments against PASPA under the Tenth Amendment. It’s a long and somewhat complicated tale in a gray area of the law that involves state sovereignty and equal sovereignty (the idea that all states should be treated equally, or on equal footing), and an anti-commandeering doctrine (the federal government cannot compel the states to enact laws or dictate how it governs its own citizens).
Ultimately, New Jersey lost in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where the court held that “while the guarantee of uniformity in treatment amongst the states cabins some of Congress’ powers, no such guarantee limits the Commerce Clause.” In other words, federal law may impact states differently, resulting in scenarios where, as here, Nevada may license sports betting operations, but New Jersey cannot.
New Jersey also made an argument under the “anti-commandeering” doctrine. New Jersey’s argument did not convince the court, but the state did get an idea for a novel angle of attack, and also gained some traction with its arguments as one judge dissented from the majority.
In 2014, New Jersey executed a novel plan in “Christie II” by passing a law (Senate Bill 2460 by Senator Raymond Lesniak) that partially repealed its state prohibitions against sports wagering, which effectively would allow sports betting, without explicitly saying so (the law “partially repeals prohibitions, permits, licenses, and authorizations concerning wagers on professional, collegiate, or amateur sport contests or athletic events.”)
The Third Circuit noted “clever drafting” in the law by New Jersey, but ultimately did not find in the state’s favor. But once again, the court was split 2-1, followed by a rehearing en banc where New Jersey lost, 9-3. The court rejected the state’s anti-commandeering argument but didn’t squarely address the equal sovereignty arguments (explored in great depth here).
In October 2016, New Jersey filed for a writ of certiorari (for a Supreme Court review) in the “Christie II” case. It was seen as a major long shot given that SCOTUS accepts such a small number of cases each year.
But then the high court asked the acting Solicitor General to file a brief on the case, which he did in May 2017, recommending that the court deny New Jersey’s petition. But then the Supreme Court decided to take up the case anyway. Not because the high court is terribly concerned about sports betting, but because of the way that PASPA works.
In an amicus brief (“friends of the court”), a coalition of 20 other states wrote that they “submit this brief in support of Petitioners because PASPA impermissibly skews the federal-state balance. Amici states take no position on the wisdom of sports wagering, nor would all amici likely legalize sports betting even if permitted.”
The major issue was that PASPA could be an unconstitutional, Tenth Amendment-based encroachment upon states’ rights. That was New Jersey’s argument. They argued that PASPA forced the state (and others) to maintain and enforce laws against sports betting, as opposed to the federal government actually creating laws to regulate or prohibit citizens directly.
And further, New Jersey argued that PASPA simply dictates a policy, but creates no framework whatsoever for states to follow with respect to sports-betting policy. This has wider ramifications for the interplay between federal and state laws and policy, and the outcome might impact the controversy over sanctuary cities.
SCOTUS rules in favor of NJ
The high court heard oral argument in the case in December 2017 and ruled in May, with Justice Samuel Alito authoring the majority opinion. The court decided to strike down PASPA completely, ruling it unconstitutional, bringing a major victory to New Jersey and other states hoping to offer legal sports betting.
In an opinion joined by all of the justices except Justice Ginsburg and Justice Sotomayor, Alito stated:
“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make.
Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not. PASPA ‘regulate[s] state governments’ regulation’ of their citizens, New York, 505 U. S., at 166. The Constitution gives Congress no such power. The judgment of the Third Circuit is reversed.”
New Jersey built its case on constitutional grounds — arguing that the law “commandeered” states to uphold its anti-gambling laws, or maintain them, or prevent states from repealing them — in violation of principles of state sovereignty. And it worked. Congress had overstepped its bounds. Congress could have outright banned sports wagering, and still could, but that’s not what PASPA did.
The case, originally titled Christie v NCAA (it changed with the new governor), was heard by the Supreme Court after making its way through the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, before SCOTUS granted New Jersey’s petition for a day in the high court.
NJ lawmakers move quickly
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, New Jersey wasted little time getting its sports betting operation moving.
In fact, that very same day State Sen. Stephen Sweeney introduced S2602, a bill that would see sports betting regulated under the purview of the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement. A mirror bill was introduced in the assembly (A 4111) and it would quickly sail through both the Senate and the Assembly by unanimous votes.
Gov. Phil Murphy penned the bill into law on June 11, saying in a statement, “I’m thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111 because it means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy.”
Just a few days later, the industry was up and running, with both Monmouth Park and the Borgata launching retail sports betting operations on June 14, 2018. Online sports betting would follow in early August, and the rest, as they say, is history.