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Bill to allow betting on NJ college sports teams advances

May 5, 2021 GMT
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A man makes a sports bet at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on Jan. 29, 2020. New Jersey legislators on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, moved closer to approving a statewide referendum that would allow betting on New Jersey college teams or games involving out-of-state teams that are held in New Jersey. Both types of wagering are currently prohibited in New Jersey. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
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A man makes a sports bet at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on Jan. 29, 2020. New Jersey legislators on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, moved closer to approving a statewide referendum that would allow betting on New Jersey college teams or games involving out-of-state teams that are held in New Jersey. Both types of wagering are currently prohibited in New Jersey. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Watching New Jersey’s legal sports betting market set national records last year, state lawmakers wanted to expand it to allow wagering on New Jersey college teams in time for the football and basketball championships.

Both those events have come and gone, and the bill that would have allowed it languished in the state Legislature.

On Wednesday, a state Assembly panel advanced the bill, bringing New Jersey a step closer to amending the state Constitution to allow wagering on New Jersey teams or games played in New Jersey involving teams from other states.

It was approved in November by a Senate committee.

“A lot of money is being left on the table for college betting, a lot of money,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo, a northern New Jersey Democrat. “Sports betting has become pretty mainstream now. I’m confident we’ll have this on the ballot in 2021.”

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The question that would be placed before voters would 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. Such wagering would be permitted only through casinos and current or former horse racetracks.”

Assembly Member Eric Houghtaling, a Monmouth County Democrat, said there were concerns in some quarters about including New Jersey collegiate teams in the state’s original sports betting law.

“A lot of people had a problem with that being included, so we didn’t put it in the original bill,” he said. “But sports betting in New Jersey has been very successful since then, and it’s time. New Jersey is picking up its level of play in college sports, and this would shine a greater spotlight on it.”

The bill still needs votes in the full Senate and Assembly before being sent to Gov. Phil Murphy.

New Jersey’s casinos, tracks and associated online apps handled over $6 billion worth of sports bets in 2020, even as many gamblers stayed home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC