New Jersey’s betting legislation includes esports ban

It’s been barely one month since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act outlawing sports betting nationwide. Since then, state lawmakers have begun discussions of implementing their own regulations.

The state of New Jersey is at the centre of this case ruling, Murphy v. NCAA, but now it seems the state actually does not want esports included in its sports betting. The first draft of the legislation was introduced before the PASPA ruling and only banned high school events but “does not include international sports events in which persons under age 18 make up a minority of the participants.” After the recent ruling, a new draft was introduced last week that had been revised to read: “A prohibited sports event includes all high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games but does not include international sports events in which persons under age 18 make up a minority of the participants.” The bill was signed by Governor Murphy on Monday and is now law in the state of New Jersey.

That one sentence is the only mention of esports in the 23-page bill and now brings a very large grey area to esports betting regulations in New Jersey. Esports events thrive internationally where participants under the age of 18 regularly make up the minority as most events have age requirements of 17 or 18 years old. However, it does leave room for betters to open esports events on a case by case basis. Operators can request permission from regulators to accept wagers on esports as long as it does not prohibit legislation. In 2016 William Hill was the first to offer esports betting after receiving permission from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. If this bill becomes law the decision on whether or not esports bets can be wagered may come to the hands of New Jersey’s Casino Control Commission.

MoneyMatches CEO, Zach Smith told Esports Insider he thinks this is directed more to avoid betting on underage events: “I understand the direction New Jersey is going in. They’re worried more or less that a lot of people that play competitive games are underage compared to people that play sports at a professional level are about the age of 18. For the international side it still seems like you can bet on international events and if someone with a proper background, like William Hill, requests from the New Jersey board to open esports wagers they will most likely comply. They wouldn’t even bother with smaller companies. If this becomes law, companies will strictly monetize international betting on tournaments like DOTA 2 and League of Legends.”

Esports Insider says: The PASPA ruling was a big win for esports betting but as it now lies in the hands of the state, it opens up a whole new can of worms. The fact that the bill only mentions esports once, and very vaguely, can leave the ruling completely up to interpretation. It’s also interesting to see that New Jersey is the state to have this grey area when it was at the centre of this ruling in the first place.