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New Jersey OKs fantasy sports tournaments in casinos

20 Mar 2013

By Chris Sieroty
With its plans to legalize sports gambling held up in federal court, New Jersey is allowing casinos to offer daily fantasy games as an alternative.

The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement has published regulations establishing standards for casinos to offer fantasy sports tournaments starting April 22. The casinos can charge patrons an entry fee and pay out winnings through the casino cage, but the activity is not considered gambling.

Fantasy sports tournaments are contests in which participants create and manage teams, made up of individual players from real teams, which compete against other fantasy teams based on statistics that players generate during real games.

It’s too early to tell how these fantasy games will affect sports book operators in Las Vegas.

“I’ve read the regulations and need to digest them to see what the opportunities look like,” said Joe Asher, CEO of Las Vegas-based William Hill U.S., which operates 160 sports books and kiosks statewide and is the risk manager for the Delaware lottery’s parlay bets on National Football League games. “But obviously it’s a step in the right direction.”

At the opening of William Hill’s sports book Tuesday at the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas, Asher said his “focus was on the lawsuit and where it’s going.”

New Jersey’s attempt to overturn a federal court decision barring the state from authorizing sports betting is heading to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp granted a permanent injunction in February barring the state from authorizing and regulating sports betting. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said he intends to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Asher said he wasn’t surprised that the state lost in District Court. He said nobody should be surprised if New Jersey lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals. But he said he thinks the state has a great chance of winning in the Supreme Court.

“The fundamental point is, sports betting should be allowed,” Asher said.

He said either there continues to be an illegal industry run by criminals or there is a legal market that is regulated and taxed.

“That’s the choice we have,” he said. “You can’t stop people from betting on sports.”

William Hill opened its latest sports book Tuesday as the company continues to invest millions of dollars into upgrading facilities it acquired in June when it completed its $49 million acquisition of American Wagering Inc., Brandywine Bookmaking LLC and Club Cal Neva.

Asher said the upgrades to the sports book at the Plaza were “pretty dramatic.”

The redesigned sports book features 75 television screens, 25 high- and low-top tables with seating, 37 viewing carrels and 12 display boards above the wagering counter. At the Plaza, the sports book features William Hill’s blue, yellow and white color scheme.

Asher described the facility as the company’s flagship sports book in downtown Las Vegas.

“The book at the Plaza has a rich history as the oldest continuously operating sports book in Las Vegas since 1975,” Asher said.

It was inevitable that former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman would turn out for the opening. Sin City’s ambassador was greeted with his usual ribbon to cut, but lacked the company of his two favorite showgirls and his usual Bombay gin martini.

Goodman’s $200 betting slip for the NCAA basketball tournament was a three-team parlay with 15th seed Florida Gulf Coast and 13 points to defeat second seed Georgetown; fourth seed St. Louis giving nine points to beat 13th seed New Mexico State; and 13th seed Montana and 13 points over four seed Syracuse.

Goodman’s initial pick of St. Louis to win the national championship was quickly overturned in favor of his hometown team, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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