ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.
Voters in the November general election will have the opportunity to decide whether to allow bets on New Jersey college teams, or teams from other states playing games in New Jersey.
The state Legislature on Thursday gave final approval to a measure placing a referendum on the fall ballot.
Current law forbids betting on New Jersey college teams, or teams from out of state who play games here in a tournament.
The measure aims to increase New Jersey’s already nation-leading sports betting market by allowing Garden State residents to bet on the state’s teams, including Rutgers, Seton Hall, Princeton and others.
When the Rutgers men’s basketball team qualified for the NCAA championship tournament this spring, fans were unable to place legal bets on the Scarlet Knights because of the prohibition under current law.
“Events and tournaments such as March Madness are highly anticipated by sports bettors all over the country,” Democratic Assembly members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey said in a joint statement after the vote. “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.”
The question to be placed before voters will read as follows: “Do you approve amending the Constitution to permit wagering through casinos and current or former horse racetracks on all college sport or athletic events? Currently, wagering is prohibited on college sport or athletic events that take place in New Jersey. Wagering is also prohibited on an event in which a team from a New Jersey college participates.”
The interpretive statement reads in part: “This amendment would allow the Legislature to pass laws permitting wagering on any college sport or athletic event. It would permit wagering even if a New Jersey college team participates in the competition.”
Lawmakers said they had some concerns about affecting the perception of the integrity of college games by allowing gambling on them when the law was adopted three years ago.
But those concerns have largely been put to rest by the state’s experience with legal sports betting, in which New Jersey has taken a leading role while closely regulating and scrutinizing sports betting.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.