New Jersey Lawmakers Considering Bill to Lift Restrictions on College Sports Betting

As sports betting spread throughout the United States, New Jersey is sitting back, grinning. It was the Garden State’s years of persistence that eventually got the Supreme Court to strike down PASPA and make sports betting legal in 2018. After eons of Nevada being the only place one could put a few bucks down on a game, New Jersey became the first of the new wave to legalize sports betting later in the year. And while the state is raking in the dough, it is not perfect, as no wagers are allowed on college sporting events that take place in the state or involve schools based in New Jersey. A bill just approved by the state’s Senate Budget Committee, though, aims to change that.

The bill, introduced last month, originally would have only legalized betting on college sports in New Jersey during playoffs or championship games. It was amended on Monday to include regular season games.

“We got the blessing of the NCAA and the Attorney General’s Office and a lot of the teams so we figured why not just go for the whole thing?” State Senator Paul Sarlo told the Associated Press.

The original bill was aimed at being able to generate sports betting revenue not so much during your standard game between Princeton and Yale, but to take advantage of major sporting events coming to the state, like the regional games of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in 2025 or perhaps a football bowl game. But once lawmakers were given the nod, they decided to expand it to all games.

Early versions of sports betting legislation in 2018 were even more restrictive than they are now. At first, anyone who owned at least 10 percent of a sports team would not have been permitted to accept bets. This affected a single casino in Atlantic City: the Golden Nugget.

Golden Nugget is owned by Tilman Fertitta, who acquired the NBA’s Houston Rockets, his hometown team, in 2017. About to miss out on tons of betting handle, Fertitta successfully lobbied the legislature to change the bill to only forbid the Golden Nugget from taking bets on NBA games.

But less than a year after sports betting was legalized in New Jersey, Atlantic City sportsbooks were raking it in on basketball and Fertitta was no longer satisfied with the earlier compromise. Thus, he spoke up again and last summer, a new bill was passed to allow the Golden Nugget to take bets on NBA basketball, but not any game involving the Rockets.

Sports betting is still booming in New Jersey. In August, the state generated $668 million in handle, a monthly record for any state. And now that sports are back in full swing (though football is the only major U.S. sport going right now), sportsbooks are getting healthy after the pandemic lockdowns.

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