Governor Chris Christie signed a law last week to create legalized sports betting in New Jersey casinos and horse-racing tracks – a measure aimed at revitalizing Atlantic City, which has taken a financial hit in recent years.
Joseph M. Asher, the Chief Executive Officer for William Hill US – one of the world’s largest betting and gaming companies – dropped by Ferrall on the Bench to discuss the new legislation.
“We’ll see what happens,” Asher said. “People love to bet on sports. You can’t stop sports betting. People have been betting on sports since this country was founded – even before that. So of course people are going to bet on sports. It’s just right now, you have a market that is 99 percent illegal. It’s crazy. Everybody’s doing it – every day, everywhere. They’re betting with criminals, they have no consumer protections at all, and it’s not taxed. It’s not regulated. So it’s a crazy type of situation because you can’t stop people from betting on sports.
“And you know what?” Asher continued. “Imagine if you really could stop all forms of sports betting on NFL football. You manage to shut down Las Vegas, you shut down every illegal bookie across the country and you really shut it down. It’d be a total disaster for the NFL. Who would watch the last two minutes of the Monday Night game when one team’s up by 14 and the only thing left to be decided is whether or not they’re going to cover.
“Sports betting fuels the popularity of the sports leagues. There’s been a change of perspective within the NBA. We read with great interest Commissioner (Adam) Silver’s comments that basically he views the spread of sports betting as inevitable and the NBA wants to get (involved). Of course that’s the logical way to do it. The mindset that we’re going to stick our head in the sand and sports betting is bad and we’re going to shut it down – it’s just not reality.
“You can’t stop people from betting on sports. That is all the more (true) in the Northeastern part of the country – in Jersey, in particular. You have such a deep sports betting culture. It’s a huge market. It’s going to be a much bigger market when it’s all up and going than the Nevada market is, frankly. It’s a big opportunity for a lot of people.”
Wait a second. The East Coast will overtake Nevada?
“New Jersey will overtake Nevada alone – just on population and the population density of the area,” Asher said. “There’s no doubt that the New Jersey market alone is bigger than the Nevada market. The Nevada market is broken up roughly 50/50 between tourists and locals. But the population in Nevada is only a little over 2 million people and you compare that to Jersey, which is nine million. So you got over four times as many people just living in Jersey. People are going to be coming in from Philly to bet. They’re going to be coming down from New York. You’re going to see the same kind of thing.”