Looking to capitalize on New Jersey’s growing sports betting market, a state lawmaker has proposed allowing legal wagers on esports.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, introduced legislation Monday that would expand legalized sports betting to permanently include skill-based competitions such as electronic sports.
“Esports is the next big thing when it comes to sporting events,” said Caputo, chair of the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee and a former Atlantic City casino executive. “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.”
During a committee hearing Monday, Caputo referenced esports’ surging global popularity as among the reasons for legalizing wagers through the framework of the state’s regulated sports betting apparatus.
“Throughout the country and the world, video game enthusiasts are flocking to see expert players compete in all kinds of digital games,” Caputo said. “Whether they follow along online or in person, hundreds of millions of people watch esports each year— and that number is only growing.”
According to Newzoo, an online gaming data provider, there were nearly 450 million eSports viewers in 2019, and the gaming competitions generated more than $1 billion in revenue from various streams, such as sponsorship, advertising, merchandise and tickets.
Last year, state gaming regulators at the Division of Gaming Enforcement permitted legalized esports wagers for the League of Legends World Championship. The DGE offered this on a one-time basis and imposed conditions, such as a $1,000 maximum bet and no in-game wagering.
Atlantic City has hosted several esports tournaments in recent years. Caesars Atlantic City hosted the city’s first esports event, Gears of War Pro Circuit, in 2017.Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City held the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League event in 2018. In 2019, Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall partnered with INGAME Esports and Caesars Entertainment to hold the Ultimate Gaming Championship’s Halo Classic tournament, and in June the venue will host an Overwatch tournament. Showboat Hotel Atlantic City has also hosted several esports tournaments.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will hold esports championship tournaments in conjunction with its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to be held at Boardwalk Hall in March.
Stockton University’s esports team won the Eastern College Athletic Conference Fortnite championship and placed second in the League of Legends championship last April.