New Jersey Sports Betting to Soon Include Esports Wagering?

Bill S2986 was filed last Thursday by state Sen. James Beach, D-Cherry Hill, and would define esports as "internet gaming," provide for additional internet gaming permits, and authorize additional esports-only permits for sports wagering.

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2022 4:32 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Senate is being asked to consider legislation that would expand sports betting in New Jersey to include esports, by listing it under a separate category under its existing legal sports betting regulatory framework.  

Bill S2986 was filed last Thursday by state Sen. James Beach, D-Cherry Hill, and would define esports as "internet gaming," provide for additional internet gaming permits, and authorize additional esports-only permits for sports wagering.

Up until now, legal esports wagering has only been available through online sportsbook apps but the new bill would allow Atlantic City casinos to add esports to their traditional online casino offerings without exceeding New Jersey’s limit of five online permits per retail operator.

In 2022, it is estimated that the number of esports content consumers will rise to nearly 500 million people worldwide. Global esports industry revenue for the year is further expected to reach a level between $1-2 billion.

The addition of esports to the casino mix would help grow an already burgeoning retail and mobile betting market in the state. It would also help provide some badly needed traction to the online casino gaming sector, which has been far outpaced by the spectacular growth of the online sports wagering market.

Figures released in mid-September by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported that retail and online sportsbooks' total handle in the Garden State reached $546.8 million for the month of August, up 2.8% from July.

Although that figure was down 17% from the total reported in August of 2021, sportsbook revenue came in at $65.3 last month, an increase of 45% over July and 25.5% higher than the same period last year.

Currently, major sportsbooks FanDuel and DraftKings offer legal esports betting, on popular fantasy games including Call of Duty, Dota, Rocket League, and League of Legends. But esports wagering is still in its infancy as states have been preoccupied with online sports betting legislation and have generally been averse to tackling the esports sector.

EEG first to launch esports in New Jersey

In April, Esports Entertainment Group (EEG), one of the leading companies the sector, became the first esports operator to be given approval to launch in New Jersey via its esports sportsbook platform.

"As the first licensed esports-focused betting site in North America, we're thrilled to fully launch the platform in New Jersey, one of the largest and most promising jurisdictions for sports wagering in the country," Grant Johnson, CEO of Esports Entertainment Group, said in a press release.

EEG offers a variety of esports games including Call of Duty, Overwatch, CS:GO, League of Legends, and DOTA 2 which allows bettors to wager on their favorite esports teams in real-time as part of what the operator decribes as "a seamless and immersive experience."

New Jersey set to extend online gaming by 10 years

The filing of the esports bill in the Senate comes just as the New Jersey state legislature is set to extend the 2013 law that legalized online casinos by an additional 10-year period prior to its expiry later this Fall.

At last Thursday's opening session of the East Coast Gaming Conference and NextGen Gaming Forum held in Atlantic City, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy confirmed that he would sign the bill into law as soon as it is passed. 

"New Jersey remains the leader in the rapidly evolving gaming landscape," the governor said during his keynote address at the event. "We are going to do whatever we can to nurture the online industry. This is no fad."

Nevada on track to legalize esports gaming

In addition to New Jersey, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized esports betting, either by means of specific legislation or regulatory interpretations by state gaming commissions — with Nevada also soon on the way.

The Nevada Esports Technical Advisory Committee announced at the beginning of the week that it will be working with the Attorney General’s office to establish a regulatory framework that would legalize esports betting in 2023.

This development comes in the wake of the Advisory Committee's July statement that it had begun the process of formulating esports gambling recommendations. The Committee will begin deliberations on October 24 to further review and approve esports regulations that will then be submitted first to the Nevada Gaming Control Board prior to being sent to the Nevada Gaming Commission for final approval.

Currently, sportsbooks must apply to the NGCB to allow customers to place wagers on esports events. Permission only applies to specific tournaments and must be renewed on an individual basis for each tournament.

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