New Jersey already has one of the most robust sports gambling markets in the U.S., but it isn’t done yet. Something new is coming this weekend – and this weekend only – that could be a prelude to an even more expansive market going forward. For the first time, the Garden State will see wagers being placed in esports at the state’s licensed sportsbooks.
According to EGR North America, New Jersey’s gambling regulator, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), has given a weekend pass for sportsbooks to receive bets for the 2019 League of Legends (LOL) World Championship Finals, scheduled to take place this weekend. The DGE told sportsbooks this past Wednesday that it would allow them to accept the wagers, provided they adhered to a couple of stipulations. These include a cap of $1,000 in bets on the match and a prohibition of offering in-game betting.
New Jersey, when it legalized sports gambling last year, prohibited wagers on high school sports events, video game competitions and esports. Shortly after, however, the DGE changed its stance and tried to allow wagers on esports, as long as the events weren’t sponsored by a high school and didn’t involve any gamers under 18 years of age.
The problem with the latter is that most gamers are under 18 – it isn’t uncommon to see some as young as 13. The DGE still has the age rule in place, but this weekend’s exception could lead to the caveat being stricken from regulations, allowing New Jersey’s sports gambling space to flourish even more.
The LOL World Championship is one of the most popular and prestigious esports events in the industry. The Finals take place this Saturday in Paris, France, and find sponsored teams from across the globe descending on the city to participate in the competition. With a prize pool of $2.235 million and a top prize of at least $834,000, there’s a lot of money waiting to be distributed.
In the U.S., only Nevada allows esports gambling, except for this one-time New Jersey exception. Elsewhere in the world, placing wagers on the video game tournaments is commonplace as esports continues to thrive. It is an industry now worth over $1.5 billion and has seen an average revenue increase of around 30% each year, much of which has come through brand contributions.
Two years ago, the total cash handed out across 4166 tournaments was just over $1.1 billion. That number increased to more than $1.5 billion the following year, even though there were just 3,489 tournaments. By the end of this year, that number will be even higher, and the popularity of the activity will drive even higher figures over the next several years.