TRENTON – Voters are deciding in next week’s election whether to expand sports wagering in the state to include New Jersey-based collegiate sporting events – but the passage of the ballot question appears to be far from a sure bet.

New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing sports betting 10 years ago, but a lengthy legal fight with sports leagues delayed its debut to 2018, after a favorable Supreme Court ruling that has led to the rapid growth of the industry around the country.

College sports events played in the state or involving schools from New Jersey can’t be legally bet on in the state, though bets on other college sports are allowed. They were exempted originally for fear it could lead to games being fixed.

But Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, said those fears have since eased and that the NCAA isn’t opposed to the proposed expansion. Not all states with sports betting block wagers on in-state schools.

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“Sports betting in New Jersey became very widely popular since it was first permitted back in 2018,” Sarlo said. “And I think we’ve proven we can do it reliably, safely, with great integrity.”

Sarlo said it’s important to get sports betting expanded before the East regionals of the 2025 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, determining one of the Final Four teams in that year’s March Madness, are played at the Prudential Center in Newark.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of activity throughout the country in betting, and we just felt it was not fitting for us to sit back and not be able to collect that revenue,” Sarlo said.

New Jersey has surpassed Nevada as the state’s largest sports betting market, including more than $1 billion wagered last month alone. In part that is because the industry hasn’t yet launched in New York, drawing bettors across the Hudson River – but that is likely to change within three months.

Christina Renna, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, said sports betting has been a boon to the state, the casinos and the racetracks and that adding Jersey-based college teams and games would help further.

“All of that is more bets. All of that is more revenue,” Renna said. “All of that is more revenue into the state. All of that is more revenue into our racetracks and our casinos. So, good news all around.”

There has been limited polling about the question, but the surveys that have been done suggest the ballot question may be rejected.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll in July found 25% supported the question and 49% opposed it. A Stockton University Poll last month found a closer deficit, with 40% in support and 45% opposed.

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