NJ Lawmakers Push To Expand College Sports Betting

Posted By David Danzis on May 5, 2021

Sports gamblers in New Jersey are one step closer to legally betting on in-state collegiate teams and events.

The state Assembly Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee moved a concurrent resolution Wednesday morning in support of amending NJ’s sports betting law. The proposed amendment would remove the current prohibition against betting on NJ colleges and universities or collegiate sporting events that takes place in the Garden State.

As it stands now, NJ sports gamblers cannot place legal bets on a Rutgers University football game or a Seton Hall University basketball game, for example. Nor can NJ gamblers wager on any games in a collegiate event hosted in the state, such as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournament in Atlantic City.

Of the 21 states with regulated sports betting, New Jersey is the only one with such a restriction.

NJ sports betting ‘needs to get in the game’

Wednesday’s legislative action gets the ball rolling on ACR200, which still has a few hurdles left before it becomes a done deal.
The proposal must be approved by both the state Assembly and Senate. Then, NJ voters must approve the amendment at the ballot box since it alters the State Constitution.

State Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, represents Atlantic City and is a member of the Tourism, Gaming, and the Arts Committee. Mazzeo told PlayNJ he was confident the amendment will eventually pass.

“New Jersey needs to be in the game,” he said. “We have to continue to monitor the ethics involved (with betting on college sports), but we can do this and do it right.”

‘Time is right’ to offer NJ college sports betting

NJ lawmakers took the path of least resistance in 2018 when they enacted sports betting law. A long, drawn-out debate on the merits of collegiate sports gambling would have stalled NJ’s momentum.

NJ voters had already approved legalizing sports wagering in 2011. Seven years later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on single-game sports betting. NJ moved quickly to get Atlantic City casinos, state racetracks, and online/mobile operators in on the action.

Now, NJ lawmakers say the time is right to go back and make changes to the 2018 law.

Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, D-Monmouth, is a primary sponsor of the resolution and a member of the gaming committee. On Wednesday, he said the current law has been a “great success,” and noted lawmakers, “moved cautiously,” in 2018. Houghtaling also added, “time has proved this was a very beneficial bill.”

“The feeling at the time was to remove collegiate sports, especially betting on collegiate sports of New Jersey state teams, ” he said. “We thought the time was right, now, to include college sports for sports betting.”

The Rock is hosting the 2025 NCAA East Regionals

It is no coincidence that the proposed amendment was introduced shortly after the NCAA announced Newark’s Prudential Center would be a regional host for the 2025 men’s basketball tournament.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, sponsored his chamber’s version of the resolution. Sarlo represents a district in North Jersey that is home to the state’s highest-grossing retail sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

“New Jersey has become the country’s biggest sports betting market … This is an important opportunity we have to capitalize upon,” Sarlo said after introducing the amendment in the Senate. “We need to support and sustain this growing market that is fast becoming a significant part of our regional and state economies. March Madness is a high-profile event on the sports betting calendar and we should be a key player.”

Photo by AP/Seth Wenig
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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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