As news trickled out of the Sports Betting USA Conference last week, bettors on the East Coast celebrated the imminent arrival of a fully functional sportsbook at the Borgata.
The crown jewel of the casino industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Borgata was formerly owned and operated by Boyd Gaming, before MGM Resorts International acquired the property in August of last year.
During the Sports Betting USA Conference – held November 14-15 in New York City – MGM Resorts’ vice president of race and sportsbook operations Jay Rood spoke as part of a panel discussion on identifying “optimal routes” to legalized sports betting in the United States.
While addressing the panel, Rood announced that MGM Resorts is preparing to invest $7 million in the construction of a full-scale sportsbook at the Borgata.
Rood also told assembled industry stakeholders and media members that he would depart New York City directly for the Borgata, where he planned to “scout what we’re going to do down there” as it pertained to the sportsbook’s design and buildout.
Sports betting is currently prohibited in all but four American states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana) under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 – a federal law which has come under intense scrutiny in recent years.
Led by New Jersey, several states have passed legislation to create regulated sports betting industries, provided PASPA is eventually repealed or amended. New Jersey voters approved a sports betting referendum in 2011, and one year later the legislature passed the Sports Wagering Act. Governor Chris Christie eventually signed the bill into law, prompting a spate of lawsuits by sports leagues including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the “Big Four” professional leagues in North America (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL).
The United States Supreme Court is preparing to hear oral arguments in the case of Christie vs. NCAA et al on December 4, and according to Rood, MGM Resorts is optimistic that New Jersey will prevail:
“We’re in line with thinking that there’s going to be some sort of movement on this.
We’re preparing for all the different scenarios.
Everyone is going to have to explore how it’s going to fit into (the) business model of their existing operations.”
The Court’s ruling isn’t expected to be rendered until May of next year, but with industry experts like ESPN’s David Purdum reading the tea leaves and putting the odds of a New Jersey victory at even money, MGM Resorts and its competitors aren’t wasting any time.
Major U.K.-based sportsbook operator William Hill, which is also active throughout America’s gambling hotspots like Nevada and New Jersey, announced similar plans for its Monmouth Park horseracing track.
Located in Oceanport, New Jersey, the Monmouth Park track is already home to a $1 million William Hill sports bar facility, built in 2013 after Christie signed the sports betting bill into law. Per William Hill US’ chief executive officer Joe Asher, the sports bar was designed to be converted into a sportsbook “within weeks” of a change in federal law:
“One day, sports betting will be legal in New Jersey. When it is, William Hill will be there.”
Dennis Drazin – who serves as an advisor to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemens Association and Darby Development, the operator of Monmouth Park – also spoke at the Sports Betting USA Conference, where he signaled that a larger $5 million sports bar / sportsbook facility would soon be in the works.
These hopeful operators aren’t beholden to the Court’s ruling either.
To begin the legislative year, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) introduced federal legislation which would fully repeal PASPA – casting the law’s future into further doubt.