NJ Voters to Consider Expanding Sports Betting to Include Colleges

If approved next month, betting on in-state college sports and games in which a New Jersey college team is playing could be allowed.
NJ Voters to Consider Expanding Sports Betting to Include Colleges
October 19, 2021

Voters in New Jersey will consider a pair of ballot initiatives on Election Day next month, including one that would allow betting on college sporting events in New Jersey or wagering on such events in which a team from New Jersey is participating.

Both of those types of wagers are currently illegal under the state constitution, which authorizes gambling in the state – hence the need to ask voters over whether the constitution should be amended.

If voters approve the initiative, lawmakers in the New Jersey General Assembly could enact legislation allowing those types of bets at the state’s casinos and current or former racetracks.

The proposal is technically an expansion of online sports betting that was first enacted in 2018. At the time, lawmakers were reluctant to allow betting on college sporting events over fears that college athletes could be tempted to fix matches.

But much of those fears were eased last June when the NCAA adopted an interim policy allowing college athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness (NIL), provided the NIL activities comport with any applicable state laws and students report the activities to their colleges.

Last June, the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS) estimated that the initiative would add to state revenues through a larger tax base.

But the agency said it was unable to quantify how much additional tax revenue would be generated, “given that the OLS cannot predict the number of collegiate sporting events that will occur in the state annually, or the number of events involving New Jersey teams on which people will wager, and in what amounts…”

The proposal to allow sports wagering on college athletic competitions passed the muster of the Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee, a standing committee of the New Jersey General Assembly, on May 5. The next day, two sponsors of the proposal, Reps. Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) and Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) issued a joint statement praising the committee’s decision.

“Out of the 26 states that have approved legal sports wagering, New Jersey is the only one to not allow wagering on collegiate sporting events,” Downey and Houghtaling said. “If approved by the people of New Jersey, this amendment will allow for further growth in the sports wagering industry.”

The lawmakers added that the issue is a pressing one because Seton Hall University and the Prudential Center will host the East Regional of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, aka March Madness, in 2025. The games are scheduled for March 27 and 29 that year.

“Events and tournaments such as March Madness are highly anticipated by sports bettors all over the country,” the lawmakers said. “With a majority vote, we will be able to give the people in New Jersey the opportunity to place wages on our collegiate teams and continue to enjoy the sporting events in our state.”

The 2025 event will be the first time the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is held in New Jersey since Seton Hall and the Prudential Center hosted the East Regional in 2011.

NCAA Division I schools in New Jersey are Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton, Rider, Rutgers, Saint Peter’s and Seton Hall.

Voters will also be asked if they support a second ballot initiative to amend the state constitution. That proposal would allow certain types of organizations – specifically, charitable, civic, educational, fraternal and religious groups, volunteer fire companies and first-aid or rescue squads – to use net proceeds from games of chance such as bingo or raffles to support their groups.

Currently, the state constitution prohibits such organizations from using proceeds to benefit their groups; they must be used for charitable, patriotic, public-facing or religious purposes. Senior citizen and veterans’ groups are currently exempt from the requirement and are allowed to use proceeds to support their groups.

Election Day is November 2. Early voting in New Jersey is scheduled to run from October 23 to October 31.

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