A ballot question will likely appear for New Jersey voters in 2021. Legislators in the state are seeking to amend the constitution of the state to include sports betting on major college sporting events. Currently, the law in New Jersey prohibits sports gambling on college games played in the state or any games that involve New Jersey teams. SCR133, the resolution to amend state law, was approved unanimously by the New Jersey Senate Budget Committee. This is the first hurdle in the process of adding the resolution to next year’s ballot.
What will expansion mean?
Senator Paul Sarlo originally proposed amending the state constitution to expand sports gambling to include college tournaments, playoffs, championships, and other post-season competitions. However, he is in favor of removing all restrictions and allowing for regular season wagers as well. “Since I originally introduced this bill, the Senate President’s Office has reached out to the NCAA and they have indicated now that there is no issue with us at all, including opening it up to all collegiate events, including teams that are here in New Jersey,” said Senator Sarlo.
Sports betting in New Jersey was introduced in June of 2018. Since then it has maintained its position as the fastest growing market in the state. In September of this year, New Jersey took in over $748 million in sports wagers according to industry officials. This record-breaking figure comes in spite of the health-related crackdowns in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In context, this was not an isolated spike as, in August, the state cleared roughly $668 million in sports betting revenue. These earnings contribute to the state’s year to date total of nearly $3.2 million in sports bets.
Interesting opportunities should the measure pass
The decision to amend the state constitution is interestingly timed; with the NCAA announcing the men’s 2025 basketball East Regionals to be held at the Prudential Center in Newark. The East Regionals will be hosted by local university Seton Hall. Should the proposed amendment fail, residents of New Jersey will remain unable to place wagers on those games.
The state already brings in large revenues to local economies with events like the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association individual wrestling tournament as well as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Visitors to the events bolster the local industries such as hotels and restaurants. The ability to wager on these events in state would only add revenues to the state economy. “We just felt it was not fitting for us to just sit back and not collect that revenue,” said Senator Sarlo at the Budget Committee meeting.
Senator Sarlo has been busy garnering support for the constitutional amendment. He has forwarded the resolution to the Attorney General’s Office who is on board with the change to the law. In addition, he has sent the resolution to Seton Hall, Rutgers, and other Division 1 athletic programs. “Everyone has green-lighted us now to make this constitutional amendment,” says Sarlo.
If the resolution is added to the state ballot next year and passes, New Jersey will join Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Mississippi who allow wagers on in-state collegiate sporting events and teams.