New Jersey encouraging applications for gaming licenses ahead of Supreme Court decision

New Jersey gaming officials, Atlantic City casinos and the state's racetracks are revving up to offer legal sports betting as the United States Supreme Court prepares to release a potential landmark decision in the coming months.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is encouraging businesses and individuals interested in sports betting to apply for a casino service industry license ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, which could be released as early as March 5.

"The Division of Gaming Enforcement recognizes it needs to be prepared to investigate and license businesses and individuals seeking to enter the New Jersey gaming market should the Supreme Court issue a favorable decision authorizing the state to legalize and regulate sports wagering," David Rebuck, director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, said in a statement to ESPN. "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."

New Jersey has been locked in a courtroom battle with the NCAA, NFL and other major professional sports leagues for more than five years. The Supreme Court accepted the case in June and heard oral arguments in December.

The case is centered on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), the federal statute that prohibits state-sponsored sports betting in all but a handful of states. Only Nevada is allowed to offer a full menu of wagers, including single-game bets. New Jersey is hoping to change that.

New Jersey has argued that the PASPA is unconstitutional in that it commandeers states to maintain a ban on sports betting that its voters no longer support. New Jersey has twice passed legislation that would allow sports betting at casinos and racetracks. The most recent law, the 2014 Sports Wagering Act, would repeal the state's prohibitions on sports betting, but keep the state out of the licensing process. The Supreme Court could rule that the 2014 law complies with PASPA, strike the statute down completely or side with the leagues and keep the federal ban in place.

More than a dozen states have introduced sports betting legislation. As they await the ruling, the NBA and Major League Baseball have teamed up in a lobbying effort both for and against the legalization of sports betting in several states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New York and West Virginia. The NBA and MLB are pushing for laws that, among other stipulations, would give the leagues data rights and a 1 percent "integrity fee" that operators would be required to pay to the sports governing bodies off of the amount bet on the respective sports. They are lobbying against bills that don't include such regulations.

Gaming operators already licensed in New Jersey are also taking steps to be prepared ahead of the Supreme Court's ruling. Monmouth Park, with its official bookmaker William Hill, has plans to add a Las Vegas-style sportsbook on the grounds, and the Borgata in Atlantic City has eyed a location to build a sportsbook in its casino.