If you’re an esports fan in the tri-state area and are looking for a place to risk your cash, drop into New Jersey before Sunday morning for a rare opportunity to gamble on esports. New Jersey has officially given sportsbook operators a one-time permission to take bets on this Sunday’s League of Legends Worlds Championship Finals match, according to EGR North America.
The event is a one-off permission granted by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, the state’s department that regulates gambling, amusement park gaming, and other similar activities. There are two main stipulations: you can’t bet more than $1000, and bets can’t be made once gameplay begins. The latter is likely more to do with the current state of esports gambling; where most sports have ways to track and share live odds, there’s no real infrastructure yet for that in League.
We presume you can do this from anywhere in the state. If you’re 21+ and have access to a casino app or website, you can legally gamble, including sports betting, anywhere in NJ. Obviously, you can also do this in-person at any casino with a sports book, or at sports book locations.
New Jersey was the first state to legalize sports gambling, outside of Las Vegas, thanks to a Supreme Court decision made last year. However, the legislature that followed explicitly requires that all players in an esports event be above the age of 18. Since then, there haven’t been any esports events on sports books, likely due to the difficulty of enforcing the rule. (Meanwhile, gamblers could place bets on matches played by Coco Gauff, the 14-year-old tennis player.)
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Esports betting specifically has been a contentious topic in the USA. Specifically, illicit websites often use digital items as placeholders for money. Valve faced a lawsuit over such sites as enraged parents found their kids had been spending thousands to access the sites. A casino also recently sued Valve for not actively responding to such gambling marketplaces. The publisher recently had to ban trading of loot box “keys,” a common and stable monetary placeholder, in order to stop illicit trading and laundering.
Only one other location in the USA has ever offered legal esports gambling. In 2017, the Downtown Grand Casino in Vegas offered gambling and a watch party for that year’s Worlds Championship. This was the only casino to offer such, and we’re not sure what hoops were in place to run this.
Outside of the USA, esports betting thrives through websites run in minimally-legislated regions. Betting companies are a major source of revenue in the international esports market, with such companies sponsoring teams, events, and content creators. Even ESPN Esports’s top writers, following the event in Europe, ran their own “betting odds” articles this year (though most of the predictions were wrong).
Regardless of outcome, this event may make waves in both gambling and esports industries in the USA. “Gaming” industries have been wondering how to bring in the new generation, especially as many ween off money-suckers like slots. Meanwhile, American esports fans and industry workers have been rearing to gamble on competitive video gaming for basically forever. (It’s one of the oldest pastimes out there, right?)
The League of Legends Worlds Championship Finals begins this Sunday, November 9th at 7 AM, New Jersey local time (or 1 PM in Paris, where the event will be held).