Expanded Sports Betting Firmly Rejected by New Jersey Voters

Industry insiders take to Twitter to lament ballot initiative’s defeat, blaming pervasive advertising and ineffective strategy by supporters.
Expanded Sports Betting Firmly Rejected by New Jersey Voters
November 04, 2021

Voters in New Jersey on Tuesday soundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have expanded sports betting to include college sports. The question was defeated by a 57%-43% margin.

The result was not unexpected. Polls conducted last July by Fairleigh Dickinson University and in October by Stockton University showed the idea of expanding sports betting in the Garden State never caught on with voters.

With the initiative’s defeat, betting on college sporting events in New Jersey, as well as wagers in which a team from New Jersey is participating, will remain illegal.

Key lawmakers also defeated

If voters had approved the initiative, the New Jersey General Assembly would have been authorized to enact legislation that would allow those types of bets at the state’s casinos and current or former racetracks.

In a twist, the two lawmakers who sponsored the proposal, Reps. Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) and Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth), both lost their bids for re-election on Tuesday, according to unofficial results posted by the Associated Press.

Downey and Houghtaling had advocated for the initiative’s passage in part because Seton Hall University and the Prudential Center will host the East Regional of the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Tournament in March 2025. The lawmakers didn’t want the state to miss out on tax revenue from March Madness.

The ballot initiative did not pass in any of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Not surprisingly, the strongest “yes” vote (49.4%) came out of Atlantic County, which is home to Atlantic City. In Bergen County, the state’s most populous, the “no” vote stood at 59%. The initiative was rejected by 62.75% of voters in Hunterdon County, one of the smallest counties in terms of population.

Reaction by New Jersey residents

Brian Paulsen, a registered voter from Montvale, told New Jersey Gaming Review that he voted for the ballot initiative. “My thinking is that people [out of state] are doing it anyhow, so we might as well allow New Jersey to profit from it,” he said.

Twitter users also weighed in on the vote. Jack Andrews (@capjack2000), a professional gambler who lives in the Garden State, said the ballot initiative’s defeat should serve “as a warning sign to the betting industry.

“The public equates more sports betting with more sports betting advertisements, and they’ve had enough of the constant bombardment of ads,” Andrews tweeted. “You guys are killing the golden goose.”

That generated a reply from Kevin Davis (@BoogieDownPicks), who works in the gaming industry and is also in New Jersey. Davis tweeted that he had spoken to an elected official who had voted no “because she thought it was to allow betting on college sports, not realizing that it’s already allowed. The vote yes side failed to campaign and that is the biggest reason why the referendum failed.”

Another New Jersey resident, Jared Smith (@jaredleesmith), lead betting analyst for Pickswise, concurred, tweeting that “even as someone who works in the industry and appreciates all the mainstream growth, it’s becoming too much to absorb every commercial, every promo, non-stop.”

Although 144 precincts had still not reported as of 7 pm ET on Wednesday evening, their exclusion from the total will not change the outcome.

Ballot Question: Permit College Sports Betting

Summary results: 6,204 of 6,348 precincts reporting – 97.73%

County Yes (% of vote) No (% of vote)
Atlantic 31,726 (49.4%) 32,498 (50.6%)
Bergen 59,506 (41%) 85,648 (59%)
Burlington* 55,838 (43.14%) 73,604 (56.86%)
Camden* 41,439 (44.58%) 51,521 (55.42%)
Cape May 12,574 (40.94%) 18,137 (59.06%)
Cumberland 10,430 (39.88%) 15,723 (60.12%)
Essex* 57,420 (47.01%) 64,737 (52.99%)
Gloucester 38,499 (42.69%) 51,676 (57.31%)
Hudson 33,940 (48.24%) 36,411 (51.76%)
Hunterdon 17,294 (37.25%) 29,129 (62.75%)
Mercer* 30,638 (38.38%) 49,189 (61.62%)
Middlesex 69,133 (43.47%) 89,921 (56.53%)
Monmouth* 95,489 (47.19%) 106,847 (52.81%)
Morris 47,869 (39.26%) 74,061 (60.74%)
Ocean 71,559 (41.63%) 100,338 (58.37%)
Passaic* 39,093 (44.35%) 49,057 (55.65%)
Salem 7,274 (39.74%) 11,157 (60.53%)
Somerset 32,828 (40.42%) 48,394 (59.58%)
Sussex 21,216 (41.06%) 30,459 (58.94%)
Union* 44,435 (44.55%) 55,308 (55.45%)
Warren 12,764 (38.49%) 20,399 (61.51%)
Total 830,964 (43.16%) 1,094,214 (56.84%)

*denotes not all precincts reported
Source: The Associated Press

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