One man who is certainly feeling rather self-assured at the moment is Jay Rood, the VP of Race and Sports at MGM International. He was present at the Sports Betting USA Conference at the Convene Conference Centre in New York City early in November.
There he announced plans by MGM to build the Garden State’s first ever sportsbook with an estimated cost of a whopping $7 million. It is the first indication that many of New Jersey’s key players are convinced the Supreme Court will rule in their favour!
New Jersey is abuzz right now. The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the State’s case for the legalisation of sports betting, with Governor Chris Christie ready to take on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) by citing that the federal ban on sports betting is ‘unconstitutional’.
Christie and his various interest groups will look to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which prohibits sports betting outside of the state of Nevada. The opening cases were made on December 4, with the Supreme Court likely to make a decision in the first half of 2018.
It is unusual for the US Supreme Court to grant appeals and it has a long history of overturning verdicts made by ‘lower’ courts, and so those involved in the latest New Jersey bid can be forgiven for feeling confident about their chances. For more on the case, check out our guide to Christie vs NCAA.
Jay Rood was said to be meeting the team behind the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, a New Jersey-based betting property that was one of the first to set up an online casino back in 2013 when legislation was relaxed in the state. Clearly MGM is willing to open the purse-strings without the ruling even being made.
This would suggest they are keen to be the first sportsbook off the ground. It is likely plenty of others will follow in what could be a snowball effect both in the Garden State and across the US, with other jurisdictions likely to follow New Jersey’s wake.
A sportsbook, or bookmakers to the UK, looks very different in the US. If MGM follow in the footsteps of the plentiful properties in Nevada, it is likely the brand will open a sports betting bar. It is a more social wagering environment than in the UK, and promotes in-play betting as the action unfolds on a myriad of big screen TVs.
The Sports Betting USA Conference is an annual meeting of industry figures looking to share ideas on the future of wagering in the United States. Naturally, the meetings are normally low-key affairs given that the regulatory framework in America is so strict.
With the Supreme Court set to make a game-changing decision on the future of betting in the country the mood was rather more buoyant at this year’s meet. The positivity was contagious. Monmouth Park’s Dennis Drazen delivered a keynote speech and suggested that estimates of $150 billion revenue were grossly undervalued.
Indeed, he believes the actual figure could be at least three times that. Talk also turned to the topic of online betting, with the New Jersey proposition identifying online gambling as a key part of its focus. The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement director, David Rebuck, said that sports betting is ‘ripe for online play’ and confirmed:
"We [New Jersey] would definitely move in that area if the state is successful in its efforts to legalise sports betting."
The most important part of the entire process of building the first sportsbook in New Jersey is getting sports betting legalised within the state at the very least. Once this hurdle is jumped, which most truly believe is inevitable with the current Supreme Court case, MGM can begin to celebrate their history making.