New Jersey Legislature to Reconsider Golden Nugget’s NBA Betting Ban

Posted on: June 20, 2019, 09:19h. 

Last updated on: June 20, 2019, 09:19h.

The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City could soon be offering NBA betting if a bill introduced this week to the New Jersey legislature gets the green light.

Golden Nugget NBA
Tilman Fertitta celebrates with his beloved Houston Rockets. The billionaire believes his Golden Nugget, Atlantic City should be allowed to offer bets on NBA games that do not involve his team. (Image: Sports Illustrated)

The Nugget is currently barred from taking wagers on pro basketball games because its owner, Texas native Tilman Fertitta, also happens to be the owner of the Houston Rockets.

New Jersey’s sports betting rules include an integrity provision that precludes individuals or entities that own 10 percent or more a professional sports team from being involved in betting on the sport in which the team participates.

That means the Nugget has been trading at a serious disadvantage in New Jersey’s new sports betting market.

Fertitta has argued that his Atlantic City property should only be banned from offering bets on games in which the Rockets are directly participating, as is the case with the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

In an official statement last year, Fertitta said he “hoped to convince lawmakers over time that the total NBA ban is unnecessary and should be limited simply to the Houston Rockets team” – and lawmakers appear to be taking notice of the billionaire restaurateur and casino owner.

Rush Street Gaming Deal Lost

The new bill would change New Jersey’s gaming law to permit NBA bets at the Nugget – just not on the Rockets.

“New Jersey’s sports wagering industry is new and fledgling, but if we take the handcuffs off, it could surpass Nevada as the largest market in the country within a few years,” the bill’s co-sponsor, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33rd), told The Associated Press.

I don’t see the point of leaving out a potential significant participant in this new industry if sufficient regulation and integrity protections are in place. Nevada has long allowed this same arrangement,” he added.

The Nugget’s disadvantage means it’s not just NBA bets it loses out on. Sports bettors who like to wager on, say, the NFL and the NBA in the same session – which is most of them – are giving the Nugget the swerve in preference for competitors that can cater for the full gamut of their tastes.

In October 2018, Rush Street Gaming announced it was pulling out of an online gaming and betting partnership with the Golden Nugget when the ink was barely dry on the contract, due to the restrictions on sports betting.

Raw Deal for Nugget?

It’s particularly galling for Fertitta because, at the time the rules were drawn up, both Caesars and MGM also owned sports teams.

Private equity investor Josh Harris, who then part-owned 5.7 percent of Caesars Entertainment through his company Apollo Global Management, also part owns the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils, and EPL team Crystal Place.

But because his stake in Caesars was lower than 10 percent, the company’s three Atlantic City properties were exempted. This would not likely have been the case prior to Caesars’ bankruptcy reorganization, which wrapped up the year before. Apollo sold remaining equity in Caesars in March of this year.

Meanwhile, MGM owns 100 percent the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, but gets of the hook because the team generates less than one percent of the group’s total revenue.