“I predicted this a long time ago,” said Raymond Lesniak, a former New Jersey state senator who led his state’s decade-long effort to legalize sports betting by overturning a federal law prohibiting it in most places. “The Northeast is a hotbed of sports betting. We are going to leave Nevada in the dust and never look back.”
Jay Kornegay, head of the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, said it is possible New Jersey could maintain a lead over Nevada due in part to its larger population.
“It was only a matter of time,” he said. “States with higher population numbers will continue to surpass Nevada, and New Jersey has a population of 9 million, not counting (people from) surrounding states, versus Nevada’s 2.5 million.”
He said one of the reasons Nevada slipped behind New Jersey include comparatively fewer NBA basketball playoff games this year.
Since it took its first sports bet in June 2018, New Jersey has taken in more than $3 billion in sports bets. Nevada handled $5.2 billion in sports bets over roughly the same period.
It remains to be seen if New Jersey can maintain its lead with large neighboring states either offering sports betting or considering it. Pennsylvania, its neighbor to the west, already offers sports betting, including mobile wagering. And New York is struggling with sports betting legislation that has been bogged down over whether to approve mobile betting.
Kornegay said New Jersey will likely be challenged soon by Pennsylvania’s growth, and the eventual entry of New York into the mobile betting market.
Nevada is still — literally — the nation’s go-to destination for sports betting, with gamblers flocking to Las Vegas for big events like the Super Bowl or the NCAA college basketball tournament.
That is something New Jersey is trying to replicate; casinos continue to plow tens of millions of dollars into physical sportsbooks to capture in-person sports betting business. Within the last week in Atlantic City, the Borgata and Bally’s opened expanded sportsbooks worth more than $20 million.
The investment is coming even as 80% of sports bets in New Jersey are taken online or via smartphones, a percentage that industry officials expect to increase to 90% within the next 5 to 10 years.
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