Amendment to allow gambling on N.J. college teams? FDU Poll says don’t bet on it passing

Sportsbooks in New Jersey casinos continue to break records for wagers and revenue, proving the desire and demand for sports betting remains high.

Make that pro sports gambling.

The latest FDU Poll shows a constitutional amendment that would allow for legal college sports betting on local teams has an uphill fight in order to pass this November.

Voters not only opposed the measure by a 2 to 1 margin, only 25% of voters said they favor the change to the state constitution.

In the poll, one-quarter of registered voters (25%) said betting on local college sports should be allowed, with half (49%) saying it should continue to be banned. The remainder (26%) said they weren’t sure or didn’t want to answer the question.

Younger voters, those without a college degree and Republicans are the most likely to support the measure.

Dan Cassino, a professor of government and politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the executive director of the poll, said the measure faces a steep climb — but it still has potential to pass.

“Many voters still aren’t sure where they stand on the matter,” he said. “But supporters are going to need to change a lot of minds if they want to get this passed.”

While New Jersey casinos have been allowed to offer wagers on professional sports since 2018, current law prohibits betting on any contest involving a New Jersey school, or any college sports event taking place in New Jersey.

So, betting on the Rutgers men’s basketball team in last year’s NCAA tournament was illegal, even though it was playing in a national tournament held outside the state. Betting on any team in that national tournament would be illegal if it the game took place in New Jersey.

Late last month, a lopsided majority of the state Assembly voted to put the question on the ballot in November; it had previously passed the state Senate 36 to 1.

Initially, college sports had been excluded from the sports betting law because of concerns about match-fixing: as student-athletes aren’t paid, it was thought that they might be more susceptible to bribes. However, in the wake of a Supreme Court decision and NCAA rules changes allowing student-athletes to be paid, this may be less of a concern. Supporters of the bill in the Legislature argue that it will benefit New Jersey casinos, as all bets have to go through a New Jersey casino or racetrack, or an online service affiliated with one.

Those most likely to be supporters of the change were:

  • Republicans (32%, compared with 18% support among Democrats);
  • Men (36%);
  • The youngest voters (36% of voters under 35 support it, compared with just 11% of seniors).

It should be noted that, in a normal off-year election, which is the case in November, older and more educated voters are disproportionately likely to turn out, increasing the difficulty of passing the constitutional amendment. Only 22% of voters with a college degree said they support the measure.

“This change might have had a better chance in a higher turnout year,” Cassino said. “But, among the voters who tend to turn out the most, there’s just no appetite for expanding gaming yet again.”