When it comes to the battle for regulated sports betting in America, the state of New Jersey has acted with a sense of bravado that would make Tony Soprano proud. The mere fact that state officials, including the reviled Chris Christie, have gone to bat for it time and time again is pretty astonishing. But in recent weeks David Rebuck, director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, has taken that confidence up a notch by inviting sports betting operators to apply for New Jersey gaming licenses.

Of course every gaming commissioner in the world is open to new business prospects, but Rebuck’s invitation comes several months ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to make sports betting legal at all. That decision is expected to come some time in June, more than four months from now. Is Rebuck being overconfident, or just prudent? Don’t go looking for answers in a carefully worded, and extremely dry, statement he made to ESPN.com on the matter in which he said:

Under existing law, any business or individual anticipating entering into a commercial transaction with a casino must be licensed or approved by the Division. Many companies have inquired as to the State’s licensing requirements in the event they are able to engage in sports wagering operations with our casino industry. The Division has encouraged these companies to commence the application process.

Rebuck, and others in the NJ gaming and government world, are betting that legalized sports betting will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the struggling casinos of Atlantic City. While that may be the case, it also seems likely that whatever advantage regulated sports betting, a fairly low-margin segment of the gaming industry, will bring to AC may be limited. As of this writing, a dozen other states are making similar plans to offer sports betting at their casinos.

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