Golden Nugget Banned from NBA Betting in New Jersey

The Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City will be short one major sport when it opens its in-person and online sportsbooks later this year. Due to regulations signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy last month, the Golden Nugget will be prohibited from taking any wagers on NBA games.

At issue is Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta, who also owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets. New Jersey sports betting laws prohibit anyone who has a 10% or greater ownership stake in a team from accepting wagers on that sport. Unless Tilman Fertitta sells either the Houston Rockets or the Golden Nugget, his casino will not be able to accept NBA wagers barring any changes in NJ law.

A reading of the bill makes it clear that owners, athletes, referees or members of governing bodies are prohibited from having “any ownership interest in, control of, or otherwise be employed by an operator, a sports wagering licensee, or a facility in which a sports wagering lounge is located or place a wager on a sports event that is overseen by that person’s sports governing body…”

Adam Candee of NJGamblingSites.com offers an interesting breakdown of the numbers behind this prohibition. According to that analysis, the Golden Nugget will be missing out on millions in potential profit.

It Could Have Been Worse, And It Could Get Better

The NBA betting ban at the Golden Nugget could have put Fertitta in a much more difficult predicament than simply choosing between NBA betting and his casino. An earlier version of New Jersey’s sports betting regulations sought to prohibit anyone who owns a 10% or greater share of a team from operating a sportsbook at all in New Jersey.

Fertitta’s position could also be better, of course, but convincing regulators to allow him to book wagers on his own team is unrealistic. Where he could see some improvement in his situation is if he’s able to convince NJ regulators to further pare back the prohibition so that he is only banned from taking bets involving the Houston Rockets rather than banning him from taking bets on all NBA games.

Tilman Fertitta dealt with something similar in Las Vegas, where he also owns a Golden Nugget, when he purchased the Rockets last year. In Las Vegas, Tilman is only prohibited from taking bets involving the Houston Rockets but is free to take wagers on all other NBA games.

He’s now hoping to convince NJ regulators to replicate that model for his Atlantic City location. Here’s what Golden Nugget GM Tom Pohlman said back in June:

“We are grateful to the legislature for listening to our concerns and including the Golden Nugget in the sports betting legislation. We look forward to taking our first bets on professional and college football, baseball, college basketball, soccer, hockey, MMA, etc.

“While we recognize that today the legislation will prohibit us from accepting wagers solely on the NBA, we hope to persuade the lawmakers over time that the total NBA ban is unnecessary and should be limited simply to the Houston Rockets team owned by Mr. Fertitta.”

Golden Nugget Has Applied for In-Person and Online Betting in NJ

Although the Golden Nugget’s ban on NBA betting is not ideal, the casino is still setting itself up to take full advantage of legal NJ sports betting. The Golden Nugget was among a handful of casinos to submit applications to the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement to operate sports betting last week.

The NJDGE would not confirm which casinos submitted which types of applications, but the Golden Nugget did confirm with reporters that it has applied for in-person and online sports betting.

Online sports betting finally became legal in New Jersey on July 14th, but none of New Jersey’s authorized casinos have opened an online sportsbook to date. That is in process, however, as New Jersey’s casinos get everything in place for online betting and await authorization from the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

More recently, the Golden Nugget reached an agreement with gaming solutions provider SBTech to serve as the “new omni-channel betting supplier” to Golden Nugget casinos in New Jersey and Mississippi.

As iGaming Business reported yesterday, SBTech will integrate with Golden Nugget’s existing online gaming platform to offer customers a seamless experience between casino gaming and sports betting. NBA betting or no, the Golden Nugget is pushing full steam ahead with its sports betting plans.