New Jersey is slated to present the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 2025 East Regional at Prudential Center in Newark, with Seton Hall University as the host. And ahead of that, state lawmakers want to partially lift a ban on sportsbooks accepting wagers on collegiate games taking place in the Garden State.
A bill announced on Thursday would only allow wagers placed on New Jersey collegiate games happening as part of an “NCAA-sanctioned tournament, playoff, championship, or post-season competition,” as well as “football bowl games at MetLife Stadium,” according to a Thursday statement from the Senate Democrats Office.
The initial prohibition was included as part of the 2018 legislation outlining New Jersey’s lucrative sports-wagering market, which saw roughly $4.5 billion in wagers last year—most of them online.
Under the 2018 law, sportsbooks doing business in New Jersey cannot accept wagers at New Jersey sites on games involving a New Jersey college sports team.
“This is an important opportunity we have to capitalize upon,” said Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, who says he plans to introduce the bill, on Thursday. “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,” he added.
Former Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak told NJBIZ last year that he initially wanted to include collegiate sports as permissible in the 2018 measure, but amid political pushback agreed to preclude them.
As a senator, Lesniak played a key role in crafting much of the legislation legalizing sports betting in the state, as well as the landmark May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the sports-wagering ban on all but a few states.
The agreement to ban most forms of collegiate sports betting in New Jersey was part of the deal Lesniak and other lawmakers struck allowing a constitutional amendment to go before voters as a ballot question in 2011.
Sports betting has become a cash cow since it was formally rolled out in June 2018, seeing billions of dollars in wagers each year.
And with the closure of the state’s nine casinos for three months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, online gambling and sports betting became a tenable lifeboat, transforming into a golden goose for the state.
In August, patrons wagered a record-high $602 million at the state’s online sportsbooks, compared to just $66 million at the brick and mortar establishments, according to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which regulates the state’s gambling sector.
Patrons bet half of that at the online sportsbooks a year ago in August 2019 – $249.2 million – according to the NJDGE.
The division is slated to release the figures for September – the first full month where indoor dining was permitted since March – at some point on Thursday afternoon.
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