Physical skill-based betting in Jersey

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Friday, February 13, 2015

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- An Atlantic City casino is about to redefine casino gambling by introducing a new style of wagering: competition based on a physical skill rather than luck.

Executives at The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa told The Associated Press on Friday that they've gotten permission from New Jersey gambling regulators to host a basketball contest next month in which players shoot free throws for money.

It's the first of what promises to be many skill-based events that let gamblers take greater control over the outcomes of their bets, rather than relying on a roll of the dice, spin of the wheel or deal of the cards.

"This is a first step, something we've never been able to do until now," said Joe Lupo, the casino's senior vice president. "A year from now, you'll probably see a lot more of these skill-based tournaments or even games on the casino floor."

Similar to poker, bettors are gambling against each other, not the house, as in blackjack or slots.

For a $20 buy-in, contestants compete in 90-second rounds for the right to play in the final round of 16 in a bracket format. The top four finishers will split $10,000, with the winner getting $5,000. A valid Borgata players' club card is required to participate in the contest.

The program was approved by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement under its "New Jersey First" initiative to adopt and enact new gambling products before other states.

The Borgata, the state division and the American Gaming Association all said the March 21 tournament would be the first of its kind in the nation, based on physical skill. Although many companies offer real-money skill-based gambling, particularly online, and there is an element of skill involved in poker, this program is the first of its kind offered by a licensed United States casino, New Jersey officials say.

"It's purely a physical dexterity contest," said Eric Weiss, director of the gambling enforcement division's technical services bureau.

Other Atlantic City casinos are also free to propose similar real-money games for approval, though each must be evaluated individually by the state.

"It's smart for them to be creative and try to find new ways to provide what consumers want, given the highly competitive nature of the region," said Chris Moyer, a spokesman for the American Gaming Association, the gambling industry's trade group.

Free throws will be shot from a 15-foot distance, at a 10-foot-high basket using a professional regulation-size ball.

Lupo said anyone -- of legal casino gambling age of 21 -- could play, even professional athletes. So does that mean LeBron James could enter?

"Definitely," Lupo said. "In fact, I wish he would."