Why can’t we bet on New Jersey college teams?
Gamblers wagered nearly $2 billion on sporting events during New Jersey's first nine months of legalized sports betting.
Not one of those dollars went to games involving a New Jersey college team.
But that has nothing to do with a lack of interest. Betting on Rutgers, Monmouth, Seton Hall or any other collegiate team that calls New Jersey home is illegal, at least under New Jersey's sports betting statute. Sportsbooks in New Jersey can't offer games involving these teams, or any college games occurring within the Garden State (except for tournament play).
"This was one of those ideas to try to keep temptation out of college sports, because their athletes don't get paid," said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, who was a primary sponsor of the sports-betting measure.
Schools and officials fear college players may be influenced to manipulate the outcome of a game, or be pressured to share private information concerning, for example, team injuries. The same risk, others say, remains with any underground betting.
"New Jersey says sports betting is legal and transparent and there's nothing wrong with it, so why are you prohibiting betting on your state's colleges? It doesn't make any sense," said Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine. "It's hypocritical to ban betting on any sporting event in your state just because you think somebody might throw it."
As part of its new law, Rhode Island also prohibits betting on local teams. Nevada for decades had a similar rule on the books with its sports-wagering statute. It was lifted in the early 2000s.
Former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the main legislative driver behind New Jersey sports betting, said he was and still is against the college-team disclaimer in the state's law. He included the exception in order to give the measure a better shot at advancing.
"I was not in favor of it, but I can count votes ... so I compromised," Lesniak said.
Betting is also banned on any collegiate games that occur within New Jersey's borders, whether or not they feature a New Jersey team. The law's exception does not apply to college tournaments such as NCAA March Madness.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.