Upon united effort, lawmakers began a push to amend the state constitution, allowing for sports betting in New Jersey on all major collegiate games. Thereby removing a noticeable restriction in a growing wagering market that continues to break national sports betting records.
A bill calling for a public referendum in 2021 was amended Monday to significantly expand collegiate sports betting in the state. Current state law prohibits betting on college games played anywhere in New Jersey, and it also bans betting on games played in other states involving New Jersey teams.
The measure was approved by the Senate Budget Committee. It will be the first of several steps required before it can be placed on next year’s general election ballot.
Momentum for the bill was put into motion by Sen. Paul Sarlo, a northern New Jersey Democrat who represents the area including MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, where the NFL’s Giants and Jets play. He said lawmakers decided to move forward with a more sweeping college sports betting bill.
When introduced in October, the bill would have asked voters to approve betting only on New Jersey college playoff or championship games. After the renovation, the new measure involving the bill would allow it on regular-season games as well.
“We got the blessing of the NCAA and the Attorney General’s Office and a lot of the teams, so we figured why not just go for the whole thing?” Sarlo said.
New Jersey has been known as the pioneering US state for several US sports wagering issues. The Garden State led the fight to overturn PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) dating back to 2011 when former NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak initiated the charge into the federal court system against exceedingly long odds.
In the earliest days of writing legislation, it was thought that fighting opposition to including NJ universities was not worth the bigger picture of accomplishment. Also, needing the passage of a separate state constitutional amendment left Lesniak skeptical that a minor issue could be approved for placement on a statewide ballot. In short, a small loss was not worth a giant win.
With New Jersey and several other US states writing headlines every month now touting record numbers for sports wagering, it seems doubtful this amendment will face any opposition or challenge.
The new amendment is aimed primarily at events like the NCAA basketball championship tournament, which was last held in New Jersey at Newark’s Prudential Center in 2011. The arena will host one of the tournament’s regional competitions in 2025.
“Some of the top teams will be here,” Sarlo said. “There will be a lot of activity and betting.”
A message seeking comment on the legislation was left with the NCAA.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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