By WAYNE PARRY
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey lawmakers are considering loosening their sports betting restrictions to allow the owner of the Golden Nugget casino to accept bets on most National Basketball Association teams.
Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta owns the casino — and also owns the NBA's Houston Rockets.
When New Jersey lawmakers legalized sports betting last year, a provision in the law banned team owners from placing or accepting bets on any games involving their sport.
It was directly aimed at the Golden Nugget and enacted over protests that Nevada regulators allow Fertitta's casinos to take bets on pro basketball games as long as they don't involve the Rockets.
A bill introduced Monday in the New Jersey Legislature would allow team owners to take bets on games involving other teams in their leagues, but not their own.
"New Jersey's sports wagering industry is new and fledgling, but if we take the handcuffs off, it could surpass Nevada as the largest market in the country within a few years," said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, a northern New Jersey Democrat who co-sponsored the bill. "I don't see the point of leaving out a potential significant participant in this new industry if sufficient regulation and integrity protections are in place. Nevada has long allowed this same arrangement."
Officials with the Golden Nugget and Fertitta's company, Landry's Inc., declined to comment on the bill Tuesday.
But casino officials in the past have complained that the law puts them at a significant disadvantage in New Jersey's burgeoning sports betting market because customers are typically not willing to visit two different casinos to place their sports bets.
A gambler wanting to place bets on football at the Golden Nugget would have to go somewhere else to bet on basketball, making it much less likely he or she would visit the Golden Nugget at all for sports betting, they argue.
New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May 2018 clearing the way for all 50 states to offer sports betting should they so choose.
Since it took its first sports bets in June 2018, New Jersey's casinos and horse racing tracks have taken in close to $3 billion, second only to the $5.2 billion Nevada's sports books handled over roughly the same period.