No NBA For You, Golden Nugget!

Written By Marc Meltzer | Last Updated
Golden Nugget
In case you missed the news out of the Garden State this week, here’s a quick rundown:
  • New Jersey passed a sports betting bill on Thursday.
  • The bill states that Golden Nugget can open a sportsbook but cannot take NBA bets.
  • Bill must be signed by Gov. Philip D. Murphy before any bets are taken.
As expected, New Jersey is acting quickly to legalize sports betting. The vote was unanimous. Once the bill is signed into law, the casinos and racetracks can begin taking wagers on games. The previous version of this bill made us question whether the Golden Nugget would be able to operate a sportsbook. Well, the most recent version of the bill was revised and the Golden Nugget will be able to operate a sportsbook. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Golden Nugget cannot take wagers on NBA games. The issue with Golden Nugget owner, Tilman Fertitta, owning the Houston Rockets is still seen as a conflict. This is potentially a huge blow to the south New Jersey casino operator. Basketball has strong roots on the east coast and the NBA is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in America. All basketball (including college hoops) is second to the NFL in handle in Nevada sports betting. While the two states may not be apples to apples, the potential for basketball betting revenue in New Jersey can’t be overlooked.

Basketball is big business for Nevada sportsbooks

Together, college and pro basketball have historically been one of the biggest winners for sportsbooks in Nevada. According to UNLV Gaming, sportsbooks actually won more money in 2017 from basketball than any other sport. Last year college and pro basketball win for sportsbooks were $87,431,000 while football (college and pro) was $76,896,000. Basketball accounted for slightly more than 35% of the win for sportsbooks last year. Football was the leading sports for Nevada sportsbooks in win percentage from 2012-2016 so this could be an anomaly. It could also be the beginning of a trend as the NBA and March Madness are more popular than ever. The consolation prize for the Golden Nugget is that they can still take wagers on NCAA basketball.

NBA and 76ers on the rise

Sports betting should be a little different in every region and in every state. Football may always be the most popular sport for gamblers but basketball could be a little more popular on the east coast than Nevada. In addition to regional preferences, Atlantic City and much of southern New Jersey is considered a sports suburb for Philadelphia sports teams. TV’s are always turned into 76ers, Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers games. The 76ers are one of the hottest up and coming teams in the NBA and the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City will certainly miss not being able to book their games. In addition to being close to Pennsylvania, New Jersey also borders New York City. Until both states legalize sports betting, New Jersey will be the only legal game in town. While Atlantic City isn’t considered a New York sports betting market, they certainly have Knicks fans visiting frequently. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 4,500 Nets fans in Brooklyn that could also be visitors. The Golden Nugget will certainly miss out the action from those three teams alone.