New Jersey bill proposes a ban on some esports betting

A bill introduced to the New Jersey state legislature this week calls for a ban on betting on professional gaming and esports events. The bill's synopsis says it "allows wagering at casinos and racetracks on certain professional and collegiate sports or athletic events," but it also defines "all high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive videogames" as "prohibited sports events" under the law. 

As with all things in life, there are exceptions to the rule: Specifically, the prohibition "does not include international sports events in which persons under age 18 make up a minority of the participants." So you could legally bet on the outcome of, say, Dota 2 matches at Katowice, but not on the outcome of a local CS:GO tourney at Atlantic City. 

That appears to be the implication anyway, but the wording isn't precisely clear: The prohibition specifies "electronic sports," but the specifics of "international" aren't defined and the exemption only refers to "sports events," leaving open the possibility—depending on how you want to interpret it—that esports and pro gaming events are prohibited regardless. 

Uncertain wording aside, the bill illustrates the worry behind ESA president Michael Gallagher's recent statement that game-related gambling regulation shouldn't be left to "the lowest common denominator of government around the world." Different rules in different states governing the very international esports scene are not likely to result in a consistent and well-regulated framework for gambling.   

ESG Law founding partner Bryce Blum shared concerns of his own on Twitter: 

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Thanks, ESPN.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.