New Jersey lawmakers pushing for legalized esports betting

Legislators in New Jersey are looking into a bill that would let sportsbooks located in the Garden State offer wagering on esports competitions, albeit with a few restrictions.

The esports betting bill has language stating that a majority of competitors in the event be at least 18 years of age. On top of that high school organized competitions could not be wagered on. These rules are in tune to those that New Jersey currently follows for other types of sports betting.

The bill is one of the main issues sitting before the Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee. New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, the chief sponsor of the bill, stated that new esports legislation was needed so the state could keep in tune with the rapidly growing industry.

He said, “I would say esports are the ‘next big thing’ when it comes to sporting events, but the fact of the matter is that video game tournaments are already a prominent form of skill-based competition. With online sports betting now legal in our state and a rapidly expanding esports industry already in existence, the time is right for New Jersey to expand legal wagering beyond traditional sports.”

The bill in question deals with more than esports wagering. It would increase qualifications of what defines a sporting event in a broader fashion. In the language of the bill, wagering would be legal for “any skill-based attraction, including awards competitions and competitive eating contests”.

The task for making sure non-traditional sporting events had in-place policies for integrity protection would go to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). If such events are deemed to be lacking in regulation and oversight, the DGE could impose limits of $100 per bet and $500 per win.

Last year, the DGE granted a waiver that allowed New Jersey sportsbooks to take bets for the final of the League of Legends World Championships. Bettors could bet up to $1,000 on the final, while live betting was not available.

While sports wagering is booming in the United States, legalized esports betting remains rare. Nevada has odds on a wide range of pro gaming events, but sportsbook operators elsewhere in the country have backed off esports. If the bill passes, New Jersey would be the only other state besides Nevada to offer esports betting odds.

While esports are not yet a major draw in the gambling world, the industry has enjoyed massive growth in the last few years. However, there are some that question the basis of that growth. In 2019, a University of Bristol study showed about half of all talk about esports on Twitter is from people that are under 16 years of age. This is important, as those opposed to esports betting are wary that allowing it legally would introduce gambling to a very young crowd.

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