NBA Betting on the Horizon for the Golden Nugget In New Jersey?

Casino owners in New Jersey had to be as excited if not more so than casino owners in other states when the Supreme Court opened the door for legal sports betting. With their state leading the charge, they knew it likely wouldn’t take long before legislation was passed and they could begin raking it in.

It wasn’t long, of course, although Delaware beat New Jersey to the punch by a few days. Since the bill was passed back in June 2018, New Jersey sportsbooks have handled nearly $3 billion in wagers resulting in over $194 million in revenue and $22.6 million in tax revenue for the state.

Just in May 2019, over $263.5 million was handled, resulting in $13.7 million in revenue and approximately $1.8 million in tax revenue.

However, one casino owner hasn’t been able to take full advantage like the others in New Jersey. Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta has been shut out on all NBA betting – but that could be changing soon.

Tilman Fertitta and the Houston Rockets

The Golden Nugget Sportsbook hasn’t been completely shut out of the sports betting market; just the NBA. The original form of the bill that would eventually legalize sports betting in NJ wanted to ban casinos from taking any sports bets whatsoever if the casino owner, in this case, Fertitta, owns more than ten percent of any sports franchise.

Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in September of 2017.

The bill does allow for exceptions to the rule. If his stake in the team represents less than one percent of his total business value, he could have obtained a waiver. While that helped MGM Resorts (who own the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces; the company reported $10.8 billion in revenue in 2017), it didn’t do much good for Fertitta.

This also held the potential to cause problems for Caesars in New Jersey. Caesars Entertainment is owned by a private equity firm (Apollo Capital Management) that was co-founded by New Jersey Devils owner Joshua Harris.

However, the Golden Nugget has been the only casino impacted by this law.

If Fertitta wanted to get involved in sports gambling at the Golden Nugget, he had a year to divest his stake in the team—which he obviously wasn’t going to do and didn’t do.

In the end, when the bill was finally passed, the language of the law allowed Fertitta to take wagers on every sport other than the one he was involved in. That one being the NBA of course. Losing an entire league was not ideal, but losing one was better than missing out on sports betting altogether.

Impact?

The immediate impact of the bill found the Golden Nugget losing their contract with SugarHouse Online Sportsbook. SugarHouse found it suboptimal to be restricted from taking wagers on the NBA, and so left for greener pastures by striking a deal with Monmouth Park for online betting.

Of course, the impact that hurts the most is financial. While it is hard to say how much revenue the Golden Nugget could have generated if it was allowed to take bets on the NBA, it certainly could have done better than it has.

For 2019 the Golden Nugget’s sports gambling revenue is approximately $163,000. FanDuel, on the other hand, has taken in over $53 million.

It would be hard to say how big a piece of the pie the Golden Nugget would have gotten had it been able to take bets on the NBA. But with the hundreds of millions being handled in state, they would have certainly made more than $163,000.

Time for A Change?

At the time the original NJ sports betting bill was passed, the official stance of the Golden Nugget was one of acceptance but also of hope.

In a statement issued at the time, Golden Nugget general manager Tom Pohlman expressed hope that the New Jersey legislature would someday approve of a similar arrangement.

Now it appears that hope may not have been in vain. New Jersey representatives Raj Mukherji and John Burzichelli have introduced A5463, which would permit the Golden Nugget to take bets on every NBA team other than the Rockets.

“I don’t see the point of leaving out a potential significant participant in this new industry if sufficient regulation and integrity protections are in place,” Mukherji said. “Nevada has long allowed this same arrangement.”

According to the bill:

“This bill permits a direct or indirect legal or beneficial owner of 10% or more of a member team of a sports governing body to place or accept wagers on a sports event in which other member teams participate when the owner’s team is not participating.”

A similar bill, NJ S 3972, has also been proposed in the State Senate by state Sen. Patrick Diegnan.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee has already given the bill a favorable vote, and it has undergone a second reading on the Assembly floor. With the NBA season concluded, it is unlikely the bill will be pushed through and passed anytime soon.

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