New Jersey sports betting operators have been cleared to take wagers on an esports event for the first time.
EGR North America reports the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) gave licensed sportsbooks permission this week to accept wagers on the League of Legends World Championship finals.
The League of Legends World Championship is a fitting event for New Jersey operators to give esports betting a trial run. This is the biggest esports tournament of the year, and the 2019 edition has already broken viewership records with nearly 4 million concurrent viewers tuning in for Sunday’s semifinals matchup between Europe’s G2 Esports and South Korea’s SK Telecom T1.
The World Championship finals gets underway on November 10th with G2 Esports squaring off against China’s FunPlus Phoenix in a best-of-five series in Paris. Last year’s final topped 200 million peak viewers.
The NJDGE authorization is for that specific event only, but it is the first time a licensed sportsbook outside of Nevada has been given the green light to accept wagers on esports.
Esports Betting a Challenging Proposition for Regulators
Regulators in states with legal sports betting have been hesitant to authorize betting on esports events amid concerns of possible match fixing, the lack of accredited governing bodies and the potential appeal to underage gamblers.
New Jersey is one of just a handful of states in which esports betting is clearly, unequivocally legal provided individual esports events meet certain qualifications.
NJ regulations define a “sports event” that may be bet on as follows:
“…any sport, athletic contest, or athletic event not prohibited by the Director, including all professional electronic sports and competitive video game events that are not sponsored by high schools, do not include high school teams, and do not include any participant under the age of 18 years.”
Other states with legal sports betting that authorize esports wagers include:
- Nevada: The Nevada Gaming Control Board issued approval to William Hill to accept wagers on a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament held in 2017. Nevada amended its gaming law later that year with a bill granting operators the ability to accept wagers on events not traditionally classified as “sports.”
- Tennessee: The Tennessee sports betting bill approved in 2019 specifically includes “e-sports” among its list of sporting events upon which operators may accept wagers.
- West Virginia: WV sports betting regulations allow wagers on esports if all participants are at least 18 years old.
States in which the law on esports betting is unclear include:
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
Indiana is the one state in which esports betting is specifically prohibited. The law approving sports betting notes that “wagering on e-sports” is not considered an authorized form of betting. Additionally, the Indiana Gaming Commission list of events approved for sports betting does not include esports.