The Wire Act, officially The Interstate Wire Act of 1961, is a federal law prohibiting certain betting related operations in the US.
“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
Basically, this makes it’s illegal to transmit betting information, or money for the purpose of wagering, across state lines.
Betting on an NFL game might be legal in the new NJ sports betting market. However, it remains illegal for anyone to make such a bet in NJ from anywhere outside the state. It doesn’t matter if the bet is made on the phone, the internet, or by any other means.
In 2011, the US Department of Justice issued a formal legal opinion on the Wire Act. It concluded that any wagers outside of sporting events or contests fall outside the act’s reach. This opened up the door for things like NJ online gambling and online lottery sales in several states.
The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling affirming the opinion in 2012.
PASPA and the Wire Act
However, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) still stood in the way of state’s legalizing sports betting. That is until the US Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in May 2018.
All states are now free to legalize sports betting. However, questions remain regarding a state’s ability to authorize sports betting across state lines on the internet.
Wallach wrote an op-ed on Forbes on the issue. In it, he recognizes the Supreme Court did make mention of the Wire Act in its decision on PASPA. In fact, he says the Wire Act remains the foremost legal obstacle for interstate sports betting. Plus, he says the legality of sports betting in any particular state doesn’t change that.
However, Wallach says the Supreme Court’s discussion of the Wire Act may have an impact on the issue.
The Supreme Court decision compared PASPA to other federal anti-gambling laws. This includes the Wire Act. The decision claims such laws should “respect the policy choices of the people of each State on the controversial issue of gambling.”
The decision reads:
“[Under PASPA], private conduct violates federal law only if it is permitted by state law. That strange rule is exactly the opposite of the general federal approach to gambling…[The Wire Act], which outlaws the interstate transmission of information that assists in the placing of a bet on a sporting event, apply only if the underlying gambling is illegal under state law.”
The Wire Act, state law, and sports betting
Some see this as a suggestion federal gambling laws like the Wire Act only make sports betting illegal when it violates state law.
In other words, the PASPA decision may have changed the interpretation of the Wire Act altogether. In fact, it may make it a requirement that a bet violates state law in order to be prosecutable.
“This could be a groundbreaking development because if the Wire Act is interpreted in this fashion, it would allow states to legalize Internet-based sports betting and permit such wagers to be placed by customers physically located outside the state.”
Wallach also mentions several legal commentators and at least one prominent national law firm that share this view. In their minds, the Wire Act only applies to gambling-related activity that is illegal under state or local law.
So far, the states that have launched legal sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court decision have not challenged this. New Jersey has seen the launch of mobile and online sports betting. However, it’s only happening inside state lines.
Regardless, the legal opinion that the Wire Act allows the transmission of wagers between states is spreading. That is… as long as the bet is legal in both states.
No state law language in the Wire Act
Of course, as Wallach points out, there is no language in the Wire Act making any reference to state law.
According to Wallach, the absence of such language logically precludes the assertion only bets violating state law are prosecutable under the act.
Ultimately, it would be up to a court’s interpretation of the act. Although, Wallach says courts generally follow the “plain and ordinary meaning” of laws. In other words, the courts won’t rewrite the law. Therefore, without any reference to state law in the act, they’re not likely to consider it a part of it.
Wallach suggests every previous federal court decision on the issue has come to the same conclusion. The courts have upheld the idea violations of the Wire Act do not require an underlying violation of state law.
That means, even if it happens between two states with legal sports betting, the Wire Act still prohibits interstate sports betting.
A reinterpretation of the Wire Act
Yet still, there are legal analysts who suggest the Supreme Court decision is a reinterpretation of the Wire Act.
Wallach calls this wishful thinking and suggests it may stem from one of the purposes of the Wire Act to begin with. Wallach says the Wire Act was meant to, in part, assist the various states in the enforcement of their own laws pertaining to gambling and bookmaking. This creates the misconception it is somehow tied to state law.
However, Wallach says the true purpose of the Wire Act has always been to suppress organized criminal gambling activities. The mention of assistance to the states was never meant to defer to state law.
Yet, in its decision, the Supreme Court grouped the Wire Act with a number of federal gambling laws that apply only if the underlying gambling is illegal under state law.
The safe harbor provision
Wallach says he doesn’t believe the Supreme Curt made a mistake, nor was it attempting to change the meaning of the Wire Act. Instead, he suggests it meant to refer to the Wire Act’s safe harbor provision.
This provision allows for the transmission of wagering information, including odds, only if the underlying gambling is legal in both jurisdictions.
In other words, the Wire Act already allowed for the transmission of information between states with legal gambling, and that’s what the Supreme Court is referring to.
This would allow a business that provides odds or risk management services to a sports betting operator in a state where sports betting is legal to send that information from a state where sports betting is also legal.
As Wallach puts it, a company like William Hill US, which provides risk management services to the Delaware Lottery and its sports betting operation, can do so without triggering a potential Wire Act violation. That’s because it is transmitting the information from Nevada, where sports betting is also legal.
That would mean it remains illegal under the Wire Act to place interstate sports bets. However, the passage of information is allowed. This is probably the most likely reason why no state has attempted to test the federal law and launch interstate sports betting.
So is it time to amend the Wire Act?
Of course, as Wallach suggests, it may be time to amend the Wire Act, particularly to allow interstate sports betting where it is legal in both states.
He says that would foster the growth of online sports betting across state lines. Plus, it will make it easier for legal operations to compete with offshore sportsbooks.
It might also protect those in the sports betting business from those who believe the act applies to in-state transmissions routed through other states, as often occurs online.
Bottom line, legal sports betting is on the move. And it’s moving fast. Therefore, an amendment of the Wire Act is needed to clarify these issues. Plus, it will provide a level of comfort to those in the emerging sports betting business in NJ and beyond.
In fact, the two mobile and online sports betting operations have combined to help Resorts Digital become the state’s top-grossing sports betting licensee, with more than $16.5 million in gross NJ sports betting revenue reported up to the end of October 2018.
Of course, to this point, it has been a lot more DraftKings than it has been BetStars. However, it’s still worth comparing two of the top dogs in the burgeoning NJ mobile and online sports betting market.
Here’s a basic rundown of what each is all about:
DraftKings Sportsbook app
DraftKings Sportsbook launched in August 2018. It was the first online sports betting app in the US to launch outside of Nevada. DraftKings Sportsbook has emerged as the NJ online market leader, and it really is the standard by which all other NJ mobile sports betting apps are compared.
The app features impressive functionality and a huge variety of betting options.
There’s a great bonus offer for new players and different promotions running all the time.
Things like in-play betting, betting carousels, and new office-style Sportsbook Pools have helped DraftKings Sportsbook become the NJ mobile sports betting app market leader and the innovations keep on coming.
BetStars NJ is essentially the PokerStars NJ entry into the NJ mobile sports betting market.
However, it stands on its own as a mobile sports betting app designed for more than just online poker players who are looking to bet on sports between hands.
The app launched in September 2018, and its gaining in popularity because of intuitive and easy-to-use software and competitive betting lines.
The Stars Group behind it might be better known for its PokerStars NJ online poker product, but those poker and online casino platforms are integrated with BetStars, allowing it to take advantage of some synergies.
Either way, BetStars NJ is a rock solid entry in the NJ mobile sports betting market that’s great for more than just players on PokerStars’ NJ gambling website who like to bet on sports.
DraftKings vs. BetStars
Now, let’s take a look at a site-by-site comparison of key app features:
New players get $25 free just for signing up at DraftKings Sportsbook. There’s also no bonus code required. Just sign up for a new account using our exclusive link and get $25 free. Easy.
The offer also includes a free bet of up to $200 matching your first deposit.
BetStars, on the other hand, offers a welcome bonus that includes up to $500 in free bets.
Using this exclusive link to sign up, players will get a first bet up of to $50 matched with a free bet. They’ll get another $50 free bet when they bet another $150 and they can do this nine times for a total of up to $500 in free bets.
The Bottom Line: Money talks and the last time we checked $500 says more than $225. Therefore, BetStars has the Welcome Bonus.
Sharp sports gamblers go where the lines are.
DraftKings has been the top dog in US daily fantasy sports since it launched in 2012 and seems to understand this better than most. DraftKings Sportsbook consistently offers the most competitive lines in the NJ market.
However, it pays to shop around, as there are sportsbooks apps that beat DraftKings on specific lines all the time, BetStars included.
The Bottom Line: It looks like the NJ market is checking DraftKings first and rarely leaving. It’s got the edge on lines right now, but it’s a competitive market and sharps shop.
Both DraftKings Sportsbook and BetStars offer a wide variety of betting options, including:
- Point Spreads
- Cash Out Options
- Round Robins
BetStars also offers something called Odds Boost that allows players to enhance their original bets. However, DraftKings also has Odds Boosts and counters that with a huge variety of In-Play Betting options and Sportsbook Pools.
The Bottom Line: DraftKings gets the edge again with its increasingly popular In-Play Betting options.
Both BetStars NJ and DraftKings Sportsbook offer a good variety of deposit and withdrawal options and responsive customer service.
However, BetStars parent The Stars Group was built on the back of the best customer service department in online gambling and DraftKings is little more than a startup in this regard.
The Bottom Line: DraftKings is working on it, but BetStars gets the nod since it is firmly entrenched working alongside the best support team in the business.
Both the BetStars and DraftKings Sportsbook apps have been built using high-quality software that is user-friendly and intuitive.
Both make it easy to sign up for an account, get money on and off, and make bets.
The Bottom Line: It’s pretty hard to choose between the two in this category. However, the ever-so-slight edge goes to BetStars because of the seamless transition it offers players between the sportsbook, online poker, and casino games. Really, who doesn’t want that?
Overall comparison of NJ online sports betting apps
BetStars and DraftKings Sportsbook are among the best NJ online sports betting apps available in what is a growing market.
DraftKings Sportsbook gets the overall edge because of the weight that must be given to categories such as Betting Variety and Competitive Lines. After all, these are the things sports gamblers truly prize in a sportsbook app. The rest is just gravy.
BetStars has a lot of gravy, but it also has a lot of ground to cover to catch up with DraftKings Sportsbook as the top NJ sports betting app in the market.
In the end, DraftKings Sportsbook is the top-grossing sportsbook app in NJ and it’s easy to see why. A focus on giving the sports betting community exactly what it wants has given it the edge and it’s an edge it’s likely to keep.
In fact, it’s hard to think of anything that can derail the DraftKings Sportsbook train going forward. Unless sharps are forced to move over because BetStars starts giving away so much on its lines.
September marked the start of the NFL season and its potentially massive online and mobile sports betting market. For the NJ sports betting industry and the Atlantic City casino industry, online and mobile wagering will shape up to be very important.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released September’s total gaming revenue figures Oct. 12 showing the industry posted $281.7 million in earnings compared to $235.8 million in September 2017. This 19.5 percent increase can be attributed to a 26.3 percent increase in online casino gambling revenue, which is up to $25.8 million. Plus, $24 million in sports betting revenue that did not exist last year.
Casino revenues and sports betting
Casino revenues reached $232 million for the month, representing an increase of 7.7 percent from the same month last year. However, the additional revenue stream that sports betting represents is clearly having an increasing impact on total gaming revenue growth.
The reason? The NJ sports betting market went through a major change in September.
NJ mobile sports betting apps had to wait until 30-days after physical sportsbooks operations opened up to launch in NJ. The waiting period for most has come and gone, and there are now eight online and mobile sports betting operations in the state.
In fact, in September, the amount of money bet through various online and mobile sports betting channels surpassed that of physical sportsbooks for the first time.
The impact of online-mobile betting
Close to $105 million was bet through online and mobile sportsbooks in September, compared to just under $80 million at physical sportsbooks. That translated into NJ sports betting apps and websites reporting $12.5 million in revenue throughout the month, compared to $11.4 million from sportsbooks at NJ casinos and racetracks.
Resorts Casino Hotel has only a small temporary sportsbook location. However, the combination of the daily fantasy sports giant DraftKings Sportsbook and PokerStars NJ sister BetStars NJ, operating under the Resorts license, has helped it become the top-grossing sports betting operator in the state.
It has recorded $11.85 million in revenue reported since launch, $8.5 million of which came from DraftKings and BetStars in September alone.
Mostly due to its proximity to New York City, the FanDuel Sportsbook at Meadowlands Racetrack continued to be the top-grossing physical sportsbook in the state last month, posting $4,377,474 in revenue.
However, there are signs that NJ mobile and online sports betting may soon widen the gap.
The NJ online and mobile sports betting market
In October, Apple gave clearance to iOS versions of the BetStars, 888 Sport, and playMGM apps. This means Apple users can now download and bet via the apps, creating an opportunity for more NJ mobile sports betting revenue.
The BetStars, 888 and MGM entry make a total of eight NJ sports betting apps now available for Android and iOS devices.
The other five are:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- SugarHouse Online Sportsbook & Casino
- William Hill NJ
- Caesars online sportsbook
Golden Nugget is reportedly preparing to launch a mobile sports betting app, as is Resorts.
Tropicana opened its temporary sportsbook on Oct. 25, and Hard Rock Atlantic City plans to launch its sportsbook by the end of the year. In the meantime, the eight other physical sportsbooks open and operating in NJ are:
- Borgata Race & Sports Bar
- Resorts Sports Book
- William Hill Sportsbook at Ocean Resort
- Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill
- FanDuel Sportsbook at Meadowlands
- Harrah’s Resort Sportsbook
- The Sportsbook at Golden Nugget
- Bally’s Wild Wild West Sportsbook
Casinos owe mobile and online sports betting a debt
Total gaming revenue figures are on the rise in New Jersey thanks, in part, to sports betting. As mobile and online sports betting begin to dominate the NJ sports betting market, it has an enhancing impact on the bottom line.
DGE Director David Rebuck knows where the industry’s bread is being buttered right now. He said in a release that the impact of NJ sports betting has been significant and it’s still growing:
“Driven by the explosive growth in sports wagering and continuing improvements in internet gaming and brick-and-mortar casino win results, the gaming industry produced another month of superb revenue increases. The revenue results point to a strong finish for New Jersey’s gaming industry in 2018.”
After a decade of declines, the Atlantic City casino industry has posted modest gains the past two years. This is partly thanks to the rise of legal and regulated online gambling.
Total NJ gaming revenue is already at $2.14 billion for the year, so another year-over-year revenue increase seems inevitable. When the industry ultimately looks back on 2018, it’ll likely have mobile and online sports betting to thank.
Image credit: Bloomicon / Shutterstock.com
The New Jersey online poker industry needs help.
The question is: Will the upcoming launch of online poker in neighboring Pennsylvania give NJ online poker the boost it so desperately needs?
The best answer is a simple one: Not just yet.
In fact, PA online poker may even hurt the industry in NJ when it launches. That is if online poker players in PA decides to stay home and play in the new legal and regulated market there, rather than make the often short drive to the Garden State.
Hope for the future for NJ online poker
The short-term outlook is a bit on the grim side. However, there is most assuredly hope for the future.
Right now, NJ online poker is an industry struggling to survive. Revenue numbers have never been great by any stretch of the imagination. However, in September 2018, the numbers hit the lowest levels seen since launch.
In fact, in September 2018, NJ online poker revenues dropped 8.4 percent from August 2018 to a paltry $1.6 million. The numbers were also down 15.4 percent from September 2017. It marked the worst monthly revenue numbers since NJ online poker launched almost five years ago in November 2013.
Making things seem even worse was the dip came despite a pair of big tournament events. The first-ever online World Series of Poker Circuit series and PokerStars NJ Championship of Online Poker ran throughout the month.
Overall, NJ gambling websites‘ revenues continue growing and wowing the entire casino industry. With $25.8 million in revenue posted in September 2018, NJ online gambling revenue numbers came close to a record high.
However, NJ online poker, which had been hovering around 10 percent, now makes up less than seven percent of total NJ online gambling revenue.
The multistate agreement for NJ online poker industry
When New Jersey signed on to the multistate agreement allowing NJ sites to share online poker player pools with others in Nevada and Delaware, the industry expected that things would change dramatically. They have not.
The WSOP NJ / 888 Poker network is the only one with sites in all three states. Therefore, it remains the only organization enjoying any of its benefits. In fact, the Caesars Interactive Entertainment network posted $671,315 in revenue in September 2018, helping it move into the top spot in the state.
However, even its revenue numbers were down close to five percent from August 2018. Hosting the first-ever WSOP online circuit series in September didn’t seem to help as much as some thought it might.
The rest of the NJ online poker industry posted month-over-month decreases as well.
Running the PokerStars NJ Championship of Online Poker didn’t help PokerStars NJ in September 2018 either. In fact, its revenues dropped 15 percent from August.
Can Pennsylvania save the day?
But again, the question is: Can PA online poker somehow come in and save the day?
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has approved the first group of online poker license applications. It appears the first legal and regulated PA online poker sites will go live by late 2018 or early 2019.
With a population of almost 13 million people, PA has the potential to double the number of people playing legal and regulated online poker in this country. However, they won’t be playing together from the jump.
PA online poker is launching in a fenced-in market. That means PA online poker players will only be playing against each other at first.
Yes, there is language in the law allowing PA to sign interstate compacts like the one involving New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. However, the state has made it clear it wants to launch PA online poker with a fence around it first to see what it is they’ve got.
For now, that means NJ online poker won’t be getting the help it needs from its neighbor.
Give online poker a year
Most pundits put the timeline at about one year before PA signs on to any interstate compacts. If it does ultimately join forces with NJ, Nevada, and Delaware after that time, it should be a boost to online poker in all four states.
The WSOP/888 Poker network won’t be the only one operating in all four states. This will allow an operation like PokerStars, for example, to get in on the benefits of multistate online poker as well.
Adding the fourth state to increase the size of the entire existing market will undoubtedly create a big jump in tournament prize pools and cash game player pool numbers. This, in turn, will attract even more players to online poker in all four states. It should be the kind of help NJ online poker needs.
NJ online poker revenue numbers may never wow anyone. However, sharing player pools with PA might give it a much-needed boost. The NJ online poker industry will just have to wait and see.
Not all NJ gambling websites were created equal, and neither were games on the sites.
There’s an abundant variety of games at NJ online casinos, making the task of picking the top five games at a site like Caesars online casino rather difficult, but it’s not impossible.
It didn’t take long to find the best in each category, giving us the following list of top five games at Caesars online casino:
Slot: MegaJackpots Siberian Storm
When you get right down to it, slots are really about chasing jackpots. As a result, the slot we’ve chosen as the best at Caesars online casino has the biggest progressive jackpot.
As of October 2018, Caesars online casino’s MegaJackpots Siberian Storm is offering players the chance to win more than $530,000 in a single spin.
White tigers might intimidate you, but you’ll get over it fast when you’re playing for half-a-million bucks.
It’s one of developer IGT’s five-reel hexagonal MultiWay Xtra slots that pays both ways, offering players an outstanding 720 ways to win. Plus, that huge progressive jackpot.
Of course, it has the usual scatter symbols and free spins bonus features. But it’s the five MegaJackpots Siberian Storm symbols you’re after. This is what triggers the progressive jackpots.
The RTP on MegaJackpots Siberian Storm is an ugly 88.99 percent, but you play this game to chase jackpots, not to pinch pennies. Since the jackpots don’t get any bigger on Caesars online casino, MegaJackpots Siberian Storm is, without a doubt, one of the best games on the site.
Blackjack: Vegas Blackjack
Vegas Blackjack doesn’t just offer the highest RTP of any blackjack game on Caesars online casino. It offers the highest RTP of any game on the entire site.
The player-friendly nature of Vegas Blackjack, including an RTP of 99.6 percent, makes it the top blackjack game on Caesars online casino. And it’s a whole lot of fun, too.
Vegas Blackjack is a standard blackjack game, but players can play up to five spots at once, increasing the challenge.
Plus, the game allows players to double down on any two cards and split any 10-valued cards.
For these reasons and more, Vegas Blackjack just about tops the list of the best five games at Caesars online casino.
Table games: Three Card Poker
Pitting yourself against the dealer in a game of Three Card Poker at Caesars online casino is not only fun, but it can also be quite lucrative.
Three Card Poker has the highest RTP among the small selection of table games on the site, at 96.63 percent. But that’s not the only reason it is the top table game on Caesars online casino.
Three Card Poker offers players the chance to win big, and that’s the biggest selling point. The big opportunity comes in the form of two optional side bets. This includes the Pair Plus side bet, which pays out when a player’s initial hand includes a pair or better. Plus, there’s a six-card bonus side bet, which pays out when a player makes three-of-a-kind or better after combining both hands into a five-card hand.
Learning to play Three Card Poker is easy, and mandatory if a player wants to get in on the action in one of the top games at Caesars online casino.
Roulette: European roulette
There are eight different roulette games on Caesars online casino, but it’s easy to tell which one is the best.
When you’re looking to play roulette, the first rule of thumb is to avoid anything with the name American in it. Patriotic or not, American Roulette wheels have a double zero slot as a well as the traditional single-zero. That has a major impact on the odds. In fact, on average, there is a three to four percent RTP difference.
That’s why players should flock to Caesars online casino’s European roulette.
It’s your basic single-zero, player-friendly roulette game with an RTP of 98.65 percent. Plus, when that single zero hits, half of all even money bets on the table are returned.
All the traditional bets are here as well, plus 30 different special bets covering different groups of numbers. There’s also a “save bets” tool allowing you to keep the action moving fast using your own standard plays.
There’s no getting around the fact that roulette is a game with a house edge. However, European roulette softens the blow a little, making it one of the top games at Caesars online casino.
Video Poker: Jacks or Better (Game King)
The list of video poker games on Caesars online casino is among the biggest in the business at 21.
Choosing the best isn’t easy. However, one can never go wrong with a high RTP classic like Game King’s Jacks or Better.
Game King’s Jacks or Better has a 99.54 percent RTP. This is as close to the top video poker games you’ll find in the industry.
However, the game is really sold to players as a traditional video poker experience. Gameplay is straightforward, sound strategy and is rewarding as video poker in its purest form.
Players have a single draw to make jacks or better and chase down the elusive and lucrative royal flush.
The high RTP should keep players in the game long enough to win big and to realize Game King’s Jacks or Better is among the top games at Caesars online casino. It may be both.
The plan for NJ sports betting at Tropicana Atlantic City began to take shape long before PASPA was repealed. However, it took until several months after the decision before those plans were finalized.
Billionaire Carl Icahn announced in April 2018 that Icahn Enterprises had entered an agreement to sell Tropicana Entertainment Inc. Gaming and Leisure Properties is taking over it’s real estate holdings. And Eldorado Resorts is taking over its gaming and hotel operations. The entire deal was worth approximately $1.85 billion.
Gaming and Leisure Properties is a Penn National Gaming real estate investment trust spinoff. Eldorado Resorts is considered a quickly-growing Reno, Nevada-based casino entertainment company. At the time, it owned and operated 20 casino resort properties in 10 states.
On Oct. 1, Eldorado finalized the sale and officially took over Tropicana AC.
William Hill and Eldorado
But the seeds have already been sewn for the future of sports betting at the Tropicana properties involved in the sale. That’s because William Hill US runs sports betting operations at Eldorado’s Nevada properties. It has done so since 2012.
In fact, William Hill operates full-service sportsbooks at Eldorado Resorts’ flagship Eldorado Hotel Casino, and it’s Silver Legacy and Circus Circus Reno Hotel & Casino in Reno.
In the April 2018 transaction, Tropicana Entertainment Inc. held onto it’s Aruba assets. However, the other seven casinos and resorts it owns and operates in six states, including Tropicana Atlantic City in NJ, will all go over to GLP and Eldorado.
William Hill and NJ sports betting
In the meantime, William Hill moved into the NJ sports betting market with full force.
It opened the Monmouth Park Sports Book by William Hill in Oceanport and the Ocean Resort sportsbook in Atlantic City.
However, it wouldn’t be long before Eldorado and William Hill formalized a plan to come together again at Tropicana AC.
In early September 2018, William Hill US and Eldorado Resorts announced the two had entered into a nationwide partnership. It’s a deal surrounding digital and land-based sports betting and online gaming in the US.
By this time, most considered William Hill US the leading sports betting company in the US. Plus, Eldorado had grown into a major casino group with 21 properties across 11 states. Once its Tropicana Entertainment Inc. deal closed, Eldorado’s numbers included 26 properties in 13 states.
The agreement will see William Hill becomes Eldorado’s exclusive digital and land-based sports betting services, and online gaming partner.
As a result, William Hill made plans to open sportsbooks in five Eldorado properties across three states almost immediately. Of course, this includes a sportsbook at Tropicana Atlantic City.
While nothing has been said yet, the deal could easily stretch into an online sportsbook for Tropicana.
Benefits for both William Hill and Tropicana
William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock said the partnership offers great benefits for both:
“Partnering with Eldorado gives William Hill access to one of the largest and most attractive casino footprints with 23 million customers across multiple states. This partnership provides extensive cross sell and profit growth opportunities to both parties. Together we are positioned to capture the evolving US opportunity – starting with land-based sports betting, and extending to digital sports betting and, in some states, online gaming.”
Eldorado Chairman and CEO Gary Carano said William Hill is already a partner Eldorado knows and trusts:
“Having worked with the company since 2012, we believe William Hill represents the gold standard in global sports betting and we are confident that our expanded partnership will be successful. We look forward to bringing the excitement of sports betting to customers across our growing platform of leading casino resorts, creating value for all shareholders.”
A Tropicana AC sportsbook
Tropicana Atlantic City has not released a date for the launch of sports betting operations. However, Tropicana Atlantic City GM Steve Callender has given some indication as to what it will entail:
“Tropicana Atlantic City is proud to partner with William Hill Race & Sports Book – America’s sports betting leader. We pride ourselves on creating unique and exciting experiences for our guests at Tropicana Atlantic City, and our sports betting offering will meet those expectations. A brand new venue is being created to host sports betting in the North Tower Casino, with kiosks located throughout the property. We offer several sports bars to watch all the games while enjoying your favorite food and drinks including A Dam Good Sports Bar, Hooters, Chickie’s & Pete’s and Ri Ra Irish Pub. We are excited to share more details about Tropicana Atlantic City’s sports book in the coming weeks.”
William Hill US CEO Joe Asher added it can’t wait to be part of such a great Atlantic City property. Plus, its plans include building a first-class sportsbook in the heart of the world-famous Boardwalk.
The overall William Hill-Eldorado deal will see Eldorado take control of a 20 percent stake in William Hill US operations. This includes all William Hill’s operations in various US states, including New Jersey.
When Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City opened along the Boardwalk on June 28, it did so without a sportsbook. However, Hard Rock’s days on the sidelines of the burgeoning New Jersey sports betting game are clearly numbered.
In 2016, parent company Hard Rock International inked a deal with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins giving Hard Rock naming rights to the team’s stadium.
Hard Rock president Matt Harkness told reporters at the casino’s opening the company was focused on the big day and would look at sports betting in the future. However, most understood the NFL’s reluctant approach to sports betting and doing business with casinos may have had something to do with there being no sportsbook there.
Hard Rock and the NFL
In fact, in May, during Hard Rock’s NJ Casino Control Commission licensing hearing, Hard Rock International chief executive Jim Allen admitted as much. He said indeed there were restrictions in its 18-year $250 million naming rights agreement with the NFL. Restrictions that could at least delay bringing sports betting on the property.
Just weeks after the opening, documents revealed Hard Rock had inked a sports betting deal. In fact, it had a deal with UK online gambling company Bet365 in place since June 19.
Apparently, the agreement was just waiting for approval from state gambling regulators to move forward.
Between a rock and a hard place
A little over a month later, it became clear the NFL wasn’t going to stand in Hard Rock’s way.
In August, the NFL Business Ventures Committee reportedly gave Hard Rock the authorization it required to move ahead with sports betting.
In fact, the committee went as far as allowing casinos, with or without sportsbooks, to sponsor NFL teams. Although the casinos can’t explicitly advertise sportsbooks with the teams they are sponsoring.
The decision represents a monumental change in the NFL’s attitude towards the gambling business. It provides a path forward, albeit a mysterious one, for sports betting at Hard Rock Atlantic City… just as long as they don’t suddenly start running ads for a Hard Rock sportsbook at the Miami Dolphins’ home games.
Hard Rock AC and Kindred Group
In the meantime, Hard Rock AC inked another deal in mid-August surrounding online and mobile sports betting.
European gambling giant Kindred Group — the parent company of the popular online gaming brand Unibet — reached an agreement to run online and mobile sports betting operations using Hard Rock Atlantic City’s license for the next decade.
Kindred Group is now pursuing a New Jersey Casino Service Industry Enterprise License.
At the time, Hard Rock International online gaming SVP Kresimir Spajic said the company is proud to partner with one of the fastest-growing operators in the industry.
Additionally, Kindred US SVP Manuel Stan said the company is happy to be joining what it believes will become the largest betting market in the world, with a true lifestyle and entertainment brand.
He also promised to give New Jersey customers an absolutely great sports betting and gaming experience. The only question now is when will that experience begin.
Hard Rock and the NJ sports betting market
As of Sept. 14, eight online and mobile sportsbooks products have already launched in the state. The list includes:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- playMGM Sports
- SugarHouse Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- William Hill
- Caesars Sportsbook
- 888 Sportsbook
Hard Rock AC remains one of only three Atlantic City casinos without a retail sportsbook operation.
The other two are Caesars and Tropicana. However, Caesars has a sportsbook app in NJ, and it’s two sister properties, Harrah’s and Bally’s, have retail sportsbooks. Plus, Tropicana announced in early September it will be partnering with William Hill Race & Sports Book to launch NJ sports betting on the property.
There’s only one question remaining: Will Hard Rock Atlantic City ever join the market or be the last currently operating Atlantic City casino to launch a sportsbook of its own?
The former $2.4 billion Revel Casino Hotel reopened as Ocean Resort Casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk on June 28, 2018, with sports betting as a major focus.
At Ocean Resort Casino’s licensing hearing in advance of the re-opening, company officials revealed plans to feature a 7,500-square-foot William Hill US-run sportsbook right in the center of the casino floor.
Construction of the sportsbook could not be completed in time for the re-opening. However, Ocean Resort Casino showed its commitment to sports betting by opening up a temporary sportsbook in its place while construction continued.
Then, the week before the start of NFL football season, the new permanent sportsbook was revealed in all its glory.
Ocean Resort Casino opens
Actor Mark Wahlberg was the first person to place a bet at Ocean Resort Casino’s temporary sportsbook. He bet $200 on the NFL’s New England Patriots to win next year’s Super Bowl during the casino’s grand opening.
Borgata’s Race & Sports Book launched June 14, 2018, as the first casino-based sportsbook in New Jersey. Up to the end of July, it remained the top-grossing casino-based sports betting facility in the state, generating a total of more than $1.5 million in NJ sports betting revenue.
However, the William Hill Sports Book at Ocean Resort led all casino-based sportsbooks in July, generating $1.03 million in revenue. The sportsbook at Ocean Resort Casino has actually generated $1.22 million in sports betting revenue since its June 28 launch.
It now appears poised to become the top-grossing casino-based sports betting facility in the state beginning in August 2018.
The permanent sportsbook at Ocean Resort Casino remained under construction heading into the last week of August 2018 before it opened its doors Aug. 31. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for Sept. 6 ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles-Atlantic Falcons football game.
The sportsbook occupies an area that once housed Revel’s nightclubs.
$6 million sportsbook still under construction
William Hill US and Ocean Resort Casino reportedly spent $6 million on the 7,500-square-foot facility. It features a wall of television screens and a number of large semi-circular booths.
Officials at William Hill promised the sportsbook will be fully functional by the time the NFL begins its new season, and they delivered. William Hill also operates the sportsbook at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport.
While waiting for the new sportsbook to open, however, Ocean Resort Casino launched its NJ gambling website, Ocean Online Casino, less than two weeks after opening its doors.
Ocean Online Casino and mobile sports betting
Ocean Online Casino began a five-day soft launch on July 10, 2018, with a scaled-down version of what the online gambling operation will eventually become. At launch, it featured approximately 50 online slots, six versions of video poker, and electronic table games including blackjack and roulette.
The site is powered by international online gambling software company GAN. Ocean Resort Casino’s original deal with GAN includes plans to launch an online casino and sports betting site directly connected to the Ocean Resort Casino player loyalty rewards program.
The site is still ramping up full-scale online casino operations, and the online sports betting component has yet to launch.
Of course, GAN inked a deal with sports betting solutions supplier SBTech in January 2018 that will ultimately see SBTech supply real-money sports betting services to GAN’s portfolio of US casino operator clients.
The plan includes integrating SBTech’s sports betting solution into GAN’s software platform. William Hill US is handling the retail side of things at Ocean Resort Casino. That presumably leaves the online and mobile sportsbook side to GAN and SBTech.
From Revel to Ocean Resort Casino
Florida developer Glenn Straub purchased Revel Casino Hotel out of bankruptcy for $82 million in 2015. However, Straub could not agree with local authorities over his need for a casino license and never re-opened the property.
Instead, he flipped it to Colorado developer Bruce Deifik in January 2018 for more than $200 million. Deifik immediately re-branded the property Ocean Resort Casino. He procured the necessary licenses and re-opened the property on June 28, 2018, less than six months after buying it.
Ocean Resort Casino now features a 1,399-room hotel. Plus, a 140,000-square-foot casino situated on 20 acres of prime real estate on the AC Boardwalk. In addition to the state-of-the-art sportsbook that’s now up and running, the casino features close to 2,000 slots and 100 table games.
Despite its roller-coaster history, Ocean Resort plans on making its mark in the Atlantic City casino and NJ sports betting world. All signs point to it doing just that.
Sports betting, and in particular online and mobile sports betting, is relatively new in New Jersey. However, there is one form of sports betting that’s been available online in the Garden State for quite some time.
It’s virtual sports, and it’s real betting on simulated sporting events.
In November 2017, prior to the US Supreme Court even hearing the NJ sports betting case, virtual sports launched on the SugarHouse online casino, allowing the states first real money bets on the outcome of computer-simulated sports.
SugarHouse was the first to receive NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement approval to run the Inspired Entertainment designed soccer, horse, greyhound, car, and motorcycle racing virtual sports products.
However, others soon followed, including NJ online casino market leader Golden Nugget.
The same five Inspired Entertainment Virtual Sports products are now available on a wide variety of NJ gambling websites, including:
- Betfair online casino
- Borgata online casino
- Caesars online casino
- Mohegan Sun online casino
- playMGM online casino
- Resorts online casino
Live at Resorts and online
Virtual sports are also available at Resorts’ iGaming Lounge off its main casino floor in Atlantic City.
Virtual sports are inside a variety of Nevada casinos. However, the launch on SugarHouse marked the first time the games became available on the internet in the US.
At the time, SugarHouse executives called virtual sports a good way to prepare for the possibility of legal sports betting coming to New Jersey. Now that sports betting is a reality in the Garden State, virtual sports have become a sports betting segment of their own.
In fact, virtual sports’ computer-generated games hold an advantage for gamblers over the real thing because they are on demand and fast.
Virtual sports have been used effectively to fill time in between sporting events or in periods where there are no real-time sporting events.
The computerized nature of the games tends to attract a younger demographic as well.
Video games, sports betting, and slot machines
Virtual sports combine elements of video games, sports betting, and slot machines.
People bet on the outcome of the simulated games and then watch a live stream of the games. The games look relatively realistic, as they employ the same computer graphics used in films and video games.
However, the outcome of the games is actually predetermined by a computerized random number generator. Much the same way the outcome of other NJ online casino games and slots are determined.
Historical data and past performance of the virtual competitors in the simulated games and races are used in calculating betting odds. Sometimes, these competitors are even based on real-life athletes.
The Pennsylvania lottery launched virtual sports including stock car racing and football in August 2018.
Virtual sports are not like video games, in that participants do not play the games; they only bet on the outcome. Players watch virtual sports but have no control over the outcome.
Wagering is similar to that in sportsbooks on real sports. There are multiple betting options for each. The odds are available ahead of time, players place bets, and sit back and watch the outcome of the game or race.
The accessibility of virtual sports
Virtual sports can run 24 hours a day seven days a week, and in particular, when no real-world sporting events are taking place.
Plus, games and races can run as often as a provider wants, making them infinitely accessible.
The games are all Inspired Entertainment virtual sports products. Therefore, it’s difficult to say which NJ online casino is the best for virtual sports.
That said, virtual sports may be just a part of what your desired NJ online gambling experience includes. If that’s the case, Golden Nugget and its market-leading variety of online casino games is your best bet.
Although, if you’re after the truly unique online gambling experience combined with virtual sports, then Betfair will deliver.
If the live virtual sports experience is the one you desire, Resorts Casino Hotel will give you what you’re after. Should you want to stay loyal to virtual sports’ original home in New Jersey, head to SugarHouse to play.
Finally, earning player loyalty points convertible into rewards at an Atlantic City casino may be your motivation. If so, try virtual sports at Caesars, Borgata, or playMGM.
The plan for sports betting at Golden Nugget Atlantic City came to life on Aug. 15, 2018, when the Marina District hotel and casino started taking bets at a temporary sportsbook on the property.
Golden Nugget became the fifth Atlantic City casino to embrace NJ sports betting. A sixth, Resorts, did so on the same day. However, things will run a little differently at Golden Nugget. For now, Golden Nugget won’t be taking any bets on the NBA.
NBA sports betting ban
The reason? New Jersey’s sports betting laws contain language effectively banning the property from doing so. The law prevents anyone with an interest in a sport from taking bets on that sport. This includes everyone from players and referees, to franchise owners, of which Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta is one.
Fertitta owns a majority stake in the NBA’s Houston Rockets, and as a result, the Golden Nugget Atlantic City can’t handle any action on the NBA.
Fertitta also owns a Golden Nugget casino property in Downtown Las Vegas. However, less restrictive sports betting laws in that state have the sportsbook there taking bets on every other team in the NBA except the Rockets.
The restrictions in New Jersey could prove quite costly to the Golden Nugget AC sportsbook. Historically, NBA wagering accounts for approximately 15 percent of Nevada’s total handle.
Of course, things could have been a whole lot worse. New Jersey lawmakers originally considered an outright ban on sports betting at Golden Nugget.
At the time the state’s sports betting laws were passed, Golden Nugget general manager Tom Pohlman said there was still hope legislators would adopt the Nevada model in the future:
“We are grateful to the legislature for listening to our concerns and including the Golden Nugget in the sports betting legislation. We look forward to taking our first bets on professional and college football, baseball, college basketball, soccer, hockey, MMA, etc. While we recognize that today the legislation will prohibit us from accepting wagers solely on the NBA, we hope to persuade the lawmakers over time that the total NBA ban is unnecessary and should be limited simply to the Houston Rockets team owned by Mr. Fertitta.”
Temporary Golden Nugget sportsbook
In the meantime, Golden Nugget Atlantic City opened up a temporary sportsbook. The first bet it accepted was a $100 wager on the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl this year at 40 to 1 odds.
The Golden Nugget sportsbook opened in the former poker room located on the property. The poker room was relocated to the fourth floor.
Warren Steven, the senior director of product and operations for online gaming at Golden Nugget, said the casino will have a permanent sportsbook open by the end of August 2018. It will ultimately be called simply The Sportsbook. However, there is no word on mobile and online betting just yet.
Golden Nugget online sportsbook app
Golden Nugget operates a sports betting mobile app in Nevada. It offers the same betting options found at the brick-and-mortar sportsbook in Las Vegas.
The Golden Nugget app employs Miomni software. Miomni also supplies sports betting software for several other Nevada sports betting apps, including Caesars. Use of the app requires signing up in person at the Golden Nugget, and deposits and withdrawals can only be made in person on the property.
Nearing the end of July 2018, Golden Nugget AC entered into a partnership with global online, mobile, and retail sports betting software supplier SBTech.
The deal confirmed SBTech as the new omnichannel sports betting supplier to Golden Nugget casinos in Atlantic City and Biloxi, Miss.
SBTech and Golden Nugget
At the time, SBTech said it would be integrating its sportsbook tech with Golden Nugget’s market-leading online casino platform. This tech would then power its online sports betting product.
SBTech also said it would provide a full platform and sportsbook solution for Golden Nugget’s on-property sports wagering businesses in both states.
As a side note, SBTech is also working with Churchill Downs and Resorts in New Jersey. The former also has a deal with Golden Nugget to offer NJ gambling website products via its license.
However, SBTech says it has created a customizable and flexible front end specifically for Golden Nugget, one that enables it to offer a unique product with proprietary pricing.
At the time the deal was signed, Thomas Winter, SVP & GM, Online Gaming at Golden Nugget, said sports betting is considered a key part of Golden Nugget’s online gambling expansion plans:
“Since sports betting is a critical component of our successful expansion for online betting and gaming in the US, SBTech persisted through our arduous review process. In the end, we knew SBTech was the right partner for us because of its industry-leading retail and online technology, their significant and diverse regulatory experience as well as its innovative product-driven approach.”
However, at the temporary sportsbook opening, there was still no word on when online and mobile sports betting would launch.
A little bit about Golden Nugget Atlantic City
Golden Nugget Atlantic City is located on Frank S. Farley Marina in Atlantic City. It was the Trump Marina Hotel Casino before Fertitta bought it in 2011 for $38 million. He then spent $150 million renovating and rebranding it Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
It now features more than 740 rooms and suites. Plus, a 75,000-square-foot casino with 1,500 slots and 80 table games.
Golden Nugget AC launched an online casino in 2013. It has grown into the highest grossing NJ online gambling operation. It has won the eGR North America Operator of the Year award two years running. The site boasts the largest selection of online casino games in New Jersey.
It’s probable that the Golden Nugget online sportsbook and retail space will have a similar level of prestige, but only time will tell.