Poll: New Jersey Sports Betting Changes Not Supported By Voters

Posted By David Danzis on July 9, 2021 - Last Updated on July 13, 2021

New Jersey sports gamblers wanting to legally bet on Rutgers or Seton Hall may have to continue taking their money across state lines.

A November ballot question proposing a change to NJ sports betting law to allow legal wagers on in-state college teams and events does not have a lot of support. A recent poll of registered voters conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University found just 25% in favor of the constitutional amendment.

According to the poll, 49% opposed and 26% were either undecided or declined to answer the question.

“Many voters still aren’t sure where they stand on the matter,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of government and politics at FDU and the poll’s executive director. “But supporters are going to need to change a lot of minds if they want to get this passed.”

‘Just no appetite for expanding’ New Jersey sports gambling

Younger voters, those without a college degree, and Republicans are the most likely to support changing the state law, according to the poll results.

Republicans’ support for amending the law was 32%, while Democratic support was just 18%.

Thirty-six percent of men and of voters under the age of 35 support the ballot measure. Only 11% of seniors do.

Just 22% of voters with a college degree say they support allowing NJ college sports betting.

In an off-year election, like in November, older and more educated voters turn out in larger numbers. That does not bode well for the amendment.

“This change might have had a better chance in a higher turnout year,” said Cassino. “But among the voters who tend to turn out the most, there’s just no appetite for expanding gaming yet again.”

Trenton votes one way, New Jersey residents lean the other

Sports betting has been legal in New Jersey since 2018.

However, the law specifically prohibits sportsbooks from accepting wagers on any NJ college teams. The law also bans betting on any collegiate athletic events in the state, regardless of whether NJ colleges are participating.

Lawmakers are hoping to change the law before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament comes to Newark’s Prudential Center in 2025.

The state Senate passed a resolution in support of changing the law by a 36-1 vote. The state Assembly approved 70-4.

“Events and tournaments such as March Madness are highly anticipated by sports bettors all over the country,” NJ Assembly members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey said in a joint statement. “With a majority vote, we will be able to give the people in New Jersey the opportunity to place wagers on our collegiate teams and continue to enjoy the sporting events in our state.”

NIL income could impact college betting law

NJ college sports were excluded from the 2018 law because of concerns over game-fixing or point-shaving. Since college athletes don’t receive compensation, the thought was they could be subject to bribes.

But, now that college athletes can be financially compensated for the use of their name, image, or likeness (NIL), the point is somewhat moot.

Some policy experts have suggested that changing the status quo is more difficult when voters do not have much information about the subject.

“As it is, opposition is some combination of not wanting to change things without understanding the options. And just plain opposition to more expansion of gambling in the state,” said Cassino. “Supporters have to explain what they’re proposing, and hope that voters are going to buy in.”

FanDuel, DraftKings weigh in

Gaming companies advocate for legalized, regulated sports betting to combat illegal sites and offshore operators.

NJ’s two largest sportsbooks, FanDuel and DraftKings, both said they support amending the state law.

“New Jersey has been at the forefront of legalized sports betting in the United States and we commend the efforts of lawmakers there for exploring ways to safely enhance the sports betting experience,” said Griffin Finan, vice president of government affairs and associate general counsel for DraftKings. “We are hopeful that voters in the Garden State vote yes to approve the amendment on all college sports or athletic events.”

A statement from FanDuel said the company is supportive of, “including college sports in legalized betting states.”

FanDuel went on to say: “Without including it, you leave college sports betting to the illegal, unregulated market, depriving states of revenue both directly from college sports betting and from users who don’t convert to the legal market for other sports because it doesn’t include college.”

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Wayne Parry

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David Danzis

David Danzis is an award-winning journalist who has covered business, politics, government, education, and sports in New Jersey. Most recently, he wrote about Atlantic City casinos, online gaming, and sports betting for The Press of Atlantic City. David is a graduate of Rutgers University.

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