Lawmakers on Monday said they plan to propose to amend the state’s constitution so that patrons could legally place bets on major college games involving New Jersey teams or taking place in the Garden State.
The change, should voters approve it in the 2021 election, could potentially knock down what proponents say has been a major obstacle for a multi-billion dollar industry.
Under the 2018 law setting up the existing market, sportsbooks doing business in New Jersey cannot accept wagers at New Jersey sites on games involving a New Jersey college sports team.
Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo, D-36th District, who is sponsoring the proposed change to the state constitution, said the move was motivated by the NCAA’s decision to hold its 2025 East Regional at Prudential Center in Newark, with Seton Hall University as the host.
“We just felt it was not fitting for us to just sit back and not collect that revenue,” Sarlo said Monday.
Officials at the NCAA could not be reached for comment on Monday. A Senate committee that day unanimously approved the measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 133.
“Since I originally introduced this bill, the Senate President’s Office has reached out to the NCAA and they have indicated now that there is no issue with us at all, including opening it up to all collegiate events, including teams that are here in New Jersey,” Sarlo said.
Seton Hall and Rutgers University also “green-lighted us now to make this constitutional amendment,” he continued.
Sarlo’s district includes the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, home of the NFL’s Jets and Giants, and he said Monday that he’d hope the stadium may be chosen for a college football bowl game in the near future.
“Some of the top teams will be here. There will be a lot of activity and betting.”
The bill was amended Monday, so that it would remove any kinds of college sporting events, as opposed to just playoffs and championships.
Data from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which regulates the state’s sports-betting market, has shown continual months of record-breaking wagers.
Sportsbooks brought in nearly $748 million in September, most of it online and beating their own record of $667 million in August. For the first nine months of 2020, sportsbooks took in more than $3.3 billion.
The lion’s share of that revenue came from online, and with casinos operating at just 25% capacity for the foreseeable future as the state hits a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, that business model may remain a chief moneymaker.
Christina Renna, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, said that this type of revenue injection could be helpful for the state’s nine casinos and three racetracks. All of them are situated in Atlantic City, a struggling seaside town that saw the highest unemployment in the state as the pandemic forced their closure for three months.
“All of that is more revenue into the state,” she told lawmakers on Monday. “All of that is more revenue into our racetracks and casinos.”