Online Sportsbooks in New Jersey
The regulated online gambling landscape in New Jersey is rather varied and robust, but it doesn’t encompass every kind of wagering you might enjoy. There’s one glaring hole that sites in between the casinos and poker rooms hosted by Atlantic City’s resorts: virtual sportsbooks, which aren’t yet allowed under state regulations.
However, this isn’t necessarily because the state doesn’t want them, nor does it mean that this will always be the case. In fact, New Jersey is in the middle of a long battle that could someday have major implications on how sports betting is handled not only in this state, but across the entire USA.
No Regulated Betting Sites
At the moment, there are no regulated sports betting sites in New Jersey. Even if the state wanted to change this, they could not, as sportsbooks are extremely tightly controlled under federal law.
This is mostly due to a piece of legislation known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). The bill was passed with the intention of effectively outlawing sports betting in most of the United States, with the only exceptions being for states that had already legalized this form of gambling when the bill was passed. In addition, only the forms of betting already authorized in those states could continue: that’s why Nevada is home to fully-fledged sportsbooks, while the other three states with exemptions – Montana, Delaware, and Oregon – can only offer limited games through their state lotteries.
PASPA was designed with a one-year window that would allow any state that had authorized casino gambling in the past ten years to legalize and regulate sports wagering before the law fully went into effect. This exception was obviously made with New Jersey in mind; however, the state failed to pass any sort of legislation within that window, and the state was seemingly shut out of the market for good.
This situation still exists today. This explains why there are no Internet sportsbooks run by the Atlantic City casinos: they can’t even let people bet on sports in their own brick-and-mortar locations, let alone over the web.
Unregulated Options Plentiful
Despite this, many New Jersey residents place bets on sporting events, and a large number of them do so online. Many well-established sportsbooks, typically operating out of the Caribbean or Europe, allow players in the United States to place bets through them. While these sites may not be licensed in the state, most of them are quite reputable, offering reliable and trustworthy services to players around the world.
These sites, combined with your typical “bookies” that take bets in person, mean that there is a rather active betting scene in New Jersey (as there is almost everywhere in the country). However, none of these bookmaking operations are legal under federal law, creating a situation in which far more Americans place bets with illegal operations than with bookmakers in Las Vegas.
State Hopes for Change, But Legal Challenges are Daunting
That situation is a large part of the argument made by proponents of legalization. Given that the activity is so prevalent, a ban clearly isn’t working. And if people are going to be anyway, it is much better for consumers and the integrity of sporting competition for all that betting to be happening in a regulated environment than in the shadows, where there is virtually no oversight.
The state of New Jersey has been one of the major entities advancing this argument. In recent years, the state government has tried on multiple occasions to pass legislation that would allow both casinos and horse racing tracks to offer sports betting, but those moves were met by legal challenges that saw not only the federal government but also the major leagues and the NCAA fighting to keep PASPA intact.
On two separate occasions, laws were passed and then nearly immediately challenged, sending the cases to federal court. So far, New Jersey has yet to win any of these legal battles, with panels from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals twice coming down against the state.
However, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel for state officials. After the last Third Circuit decision went against them by a 2-1 margin in August 2015, Governor Chris Christie requested that the entire court rehear the case. In October, the court agreed, vacating the original ruling and setting the stage for all 11 justices to listen to arguments. That is expected to take place in February 2016.
Should New Jersey ever prove successful, it could lead to many other states trying to regulate sports betting as well. Several other states have already shown interest in the idea, though none have gone as far as The Garden State when it comes to pressing the issue. On the other hand, even some proponents, such as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, believe that advocating new federal legislation on the issue is a better and “cleaner” way to achieve their goals, and it is unclear what the sportsbook industry might look like even if the state does prove victorious in court.