New Jersey Senator Paul Sarlo calls for a voter referendum to legalize wagering on NCAA-sanctioned tournaments, after the announcement that the following 2025 Men’s NCAA Basketball East Regionals will be held in Newark.
The State Constitution says that collegiate betting is not yet permitted in New Jersey nor can NJ sports fans vote on local teams when they play in other states.
Lucky Loophole for March Madness Games
Sen. Sarlo submitted a bill on Monday, October 19 creating a loophole and therefore allowing bets during the NCAA’s March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament. The original betting laws will not be affected but New Jersey sportsbooks will be able to open betting lines on collegiate sports.
With the successful amendment of the state constitution, betting on college playoffs and championships will be legal in New Jersey and in other states where NJ teams are playing.
“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,” the Democrat said.
New Bill Might Not Be Enough, Experts Say
However, sports betting experts said the new legislation will not be enough, as regular-season games such as Rutgers football, will still face betting prohibition. Some even question the necessity of the bill:
“If you’re going to go through the trouble of passing a resolution and having an issue of this magnitude to amend the state constitution, you should go all the way and completely remove the ban on in-state collegiate betting,” said Sports betting law expert Daniel Wallach.
“It seems to me the measure would have passed, at least on the public level, with or without an in-state betting ban.“, he added.
Although New Jersey stands as a leading state in sports betting, mainly due to its involvement in ending Nevada’s monopoly over the market in 2011 and 2012, the state is practically telling its citizens to bet illegally or in other states, according to Wallach.
Some states have adapted a provision to mitigate illegal bets by restricting individual players and team props. Many betting scandals were reported by state-regulated sportsbooks who noticed discrepancies and surprising patterns in betting.
Other States Push For Betting Legalization and New Jersey Sets New Record
Maryland, Massachusetts, and Arizona have been pushing for changes in wagering laws as a response to the cancellation of competitions and games in the US and in Europe. Unsurprisingly, most bills were postponed or failed to be implemented. Legislators agreed sports betting is not a priority in regards of the current economic issues and health crisis.
This did not stop New Jersey from breaking a new record as its sports betting handle reached more than $748 million with legal NJ sportsbooks last September. This establishes a new record for both the state and the US, with a 12.1% increase over a month, and a 68% jump from September 2019’s $445.6 million.
More college football games were played in October than September, but it is unlikely New Jersey will pass $750 million this year. The pandemic affected this year’s results, as 2019 expectations suggested the state would be $800 million in 2020.