Senate President Steve Sweeney says the new sports betting regulatory bill as currently drafted would ban team owners from operating a sports betting parlor. That could directly impact Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta who bought the Houston Rockets last September and also owns the Golden Nugget chain of five casinos, including gaming halls in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
“There should be a separation. You know, if you own a team, you shouldn’t be allowed to own anything where you take sports bets,” Sweeney said. “Because that alone really questions the integrity of sports betting.”
Bets on the Rockets aren’t accepted at the Golden Nugget in Vegas because Fertitta owns the team. But that’s not enough for Sweeney.
“I won’t bet on this one, and that’s OK. It’s really hypocrisy,” said Sweeney.
NJTV News reached out to Fertitta, but we’ve gotten no comment, yet. The Nugget owner, apparently unaware that key casino license-holders in Atlantic City aren’t allowed to gamble there, reportedly paid a $15,000 fine five years ago, after he admitted to playing blackjack at the Borgata and the former Revel. Fertitta didn’t encounter similar restraints in Vegas.
Sweeney said barring team owners from running sports betting parlors helps boost the integrity of both, but he remains dead set against paying the leagues any integrity fees. He says the Legislature’s expected to vote on this regulatory bill June 7. Monmouth Park, which had raced to open its sports betting parlor on Memorial Day, will wait. It expects a large take overall.
“We may be close to a billion, that’s obviously before, that’s just the gross handle, that’s not any type of commissions or anything. But it’s a substantial amount of money in a state that obviously has a lot of people and I think lends itself very well to this environment,” said Bill Knauf, vice president of Business Operations at Monmouth Park Racetrack.
But New Jersey shouldn’t expect a tax revenue bonanza. Marcy Block at Fitch Ratings said, ” … potential tax revenue from this activity would be modest in the context of [New Jersey’s] overall budget. Additionally, legalized sports gaming will not add to the state’s coffers unless both operators and players participate.”
While it awaits the regulations, Monmouth Park will probably offer celebrities a chance to make ceremonial sports bets for charity. Sweeney says he understands that venues feel the need for speed. He says if the bill passes June 7, and gets signed soon afterward, it could take effect immediately.