New Jersey voters rejected an expansion of college sports betting to include in-state schools and collegiate events.
Nearly 57% of voters opposed a constitutional amendment allowing the State Legislature to pass laws permitting wagering on college sports or athletic events. Betting on N.J. college teams or any collegiate sporting event held in the state (regardless of whether a Garden State school is involved) is still prohibited.
Twenty of the state’s 21 counties voted “No,” on Public Question No. 1. Less than 51% of voters in Atlantic County — home to Atlantic City — supported the proposal.
The election results are unofficial until certified.
Legal sports betting is active in 29 states and Washington D.C., with three more states launching soon, according to the American Gaming Association. Seventeen states (including N.J.) and D.C. have some form of college sports betting prohibition.
Expect another N.J. referendum in two years
N.J. officials will likely ask voters to approve a college sports betting expansion again in 2023. The goal is to approve in-state college sports betting before the regional round of the 2025 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Prudential Center in Newark.
N.J. is currently the largest sports betting market in the country.
Garden State sportsbook operators took in an all-time high of $1.011 billion in legal sports wagers in September. Since 2018, when N.J. legalized sports betting following a U.S. Supreme Court decision, more than $19 billion has been gambled on sports.
Why is there a ban on in-state college sports betting in the first place?
New Jersey did not include in-state college sports betting in a 2011 voter referendum.
Seven years later, when N.J. legalized sports betting following a U.S. Supreme Court decision, in-state college wagering was prohibited over concerns of improper influence or illegal behavior. Basically, lawmakers were worried about point-shaving or game-fixing situations where college athletes might be tempted by money.
Student-athletes can now be financially compensated for using their name, image or likeness (NIL). So, the point is moot in 2021.
However, N.J. voters still saw no reason to change the status quo.
No desire to offer more college sports betting
The General Election fate of the college sports betting proposal is in line with N.J. public polling leading up to the vote. In four separate pre-election polls, opposition to expanding N.J. sports betting was greater than the support.
Several factors could have played into the results, including off-year election trends, voter apathy, moral opposition or absence of issue awareness. Plus, N.J. is not a big college sports market, so there is not a strong public push to change the current laws.
New Jersey sports gamblers looking to bet on Rutgers, Seton Hall or Princeton will have to continue visiting a neighboring state such as Pennsylvania. At least for the next couple of years.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II