Could AC Follow Vegas And Get Its Own Pro Sports Teams If PASPA Falls?

Updated on April 6, 2018

It looks like sports betting will soon be coming to New Jersey casinos and racetracks.

Nevada has pretty much enjoyed a monopoly on the activity since well before 1992 when the federal government passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). PASPA is the federal law that makes sports betting illegal everywhere except Nevada. Although, it also allows for parlay bets in Delaware and game square wagering in Montana.

New Jersey has been trying to skirt around PASPA since 2011 to make sports betting legal at casinos and racetracks in the state. Back then, lawmakers passed a bill seeking to legalize the activity, but professional and amateur sports leagues protested. They took New Jersey to court and were successful in having the new law struck down before anyone ever placed a bet.

Second effort for NJ sports betting

The state tried again in 2014. Lawmakers passed a second bill aimed at legalizing sports betting and the leagues filed suit again.

The courts struck down the NJ sports betting law for the second time, and after a series of failed appeals, the state asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear its case against PASPA. In the summer of 2017, it agreed to.

In December of last year, the state presented oral arguments against PASPA. These framed the federal ban on sports betting in the US as unconstitutional. And apparently, they did a very good job of it. Because most pundits believe that when the Supreme Court releases its decision sometime this spring or summer, it will land on New Jersey’s side.

Legal and regulated sports betting will be headed to the Garden State soon after. Casinos and racetracks will likely be ready to go within weeks. It will all happen very fast.

In the meantime, things are changing very rapidly over in America’s original sports betting capital as well.

Las Vegas growth and pro sports teams

Las Vegas has been labeled the country’s fastest-growing city more than once. However, a major professional sports betting franchise had always been missing. The leagues avoided gambling like the plague and showed zero interest in a city built on the casino industry’s back. Until recently.

The National Hockey League approved a Las Vegas expansion bid in June 2016. The Vegas Golden Knights began playing in the NHL this season, giving the city its first major sports franchise. But another even bigger one is coming.

National Football League owners approved the Oakland Raiders relocation to the US gambling mecca last year.

The Las Vegas Raiders will most likely start calling Las Vegas home in 2020 after the construction of a new $750 million stadium just west of the Las Vegas Strip is completed.

Once the move is complete, the city of sin will have gone from no sports franchises to two in the span of four years.

Atlantic City has casinos, but it’s hardly Las Vegas. Four years ago, both cities shared the distinction of not having any major sports franchises to call it home.

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What’s next for Atlantic City?

Will things change for Atlantic City with a new and legal NJ sports betting market? Will it suddenly garner the same kind of interest from the professional sports leagues and their new relationship with the casino and gambling industry?

Probably not.

Unlike Nevada, New Jersey has a number of professional sports franchises operating inside its borders already. They’re just not in Atlantic City.

The NHL’s New Jersey Devils are based in Newark and play at that city’s Prudential Center. Although it remains the only major league franchise to use the state’s name, there are certainly others operating there.

Both of New York’s NFL teams, the New York Giants and the New York Jets, play at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford’s Meadowlands Sports Complex.

Plus, New York’s Major League Soccer, the New York Red Bulls, play in Red Bull Arena in Harrison.

The state even had its own National Basketball Association team for 35 years. However, the New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012.

None of the teams operating inside New Jersey have any need to move. Plus, Atlantic City has never shown any signs it can support a major sports franchise.

Sports betting on the Jersey Shore

Sports betting at the casinos might suddenly make Atlantic City a more attractive destination for a franchise. However, it’s important to remember that sports betting in New Jersey is likely to be found at racetracks as well.

Which means the state’s top sports franchises are already in close proximity to a place where legal sports betting is sure to come: The Meadowlands Racetrack inside the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets both play at MetLife Stadium inside the complex.

It’s also important to remember that the legalization of sports betting in New Jersey won’t suddenly change any professional sports league’s relationship with the casino and gaming industry.

The Raiders and the Golden Nights may be in the process of doing that. However, the relationship between the two industries isn’t much of one at this time. In fact, most pro sports leagues have clearly defined rules preventing casinos from owning franchises. Plus, players are prevented from signing endorsement deals with casinos and often prevented from attending any type of events there.

The more things change

These kinds of things would have to change drastically before Atlantic City would become an attractive destination for any sports league.

Of course, Atlantic City could certainly grow into a city that would be more attractive to a sports franchise from outside the state using the economic benefits and tax revenues legal sports betting is sure to bring.

But that’s likely to take a number of years. As a result, it’s not very likely that Atlantic City will follow in Las Vegas’ footsteps and start getting pro sports teams anytime soon, even if PASPA does fall this year.

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