New Jersey Voters Reject College Sports-Betting Ballot Measure

November 3, 2021
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New Jersey will continue to prohibit bets on in-state college teams after a ballot measure to lift the ban was rejected by state voters on Tuesday.

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Editor's Note: This story was updated at 15:56 with comments by the city mayor and Urban One's CEO on the defeat of a casino proposal by voters in Richmond, Virginia, and updated results from ballot measures in New Jersey and Hampshire.

New Jersey will continue to prohibit bets on in-state college teams after a ballot measure to lift the ban was rejected by state voters on Tuesday.

With more than 97 percent of total votes counted, New Jerseyans were on track to reject the college betting measure by a margin of 56.8 to 43.2 percent.

The New Jersey legislature passed a resolution in June asking voters to revisit one provision included in the 2011 state constitutional amendment that set in motion the series of events leading to the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling of 2018 to end the federal ban on expanded sports wagering.

Due to the restriction, New Jersey sportsbooks cannot offer any bets on games involving a New Jersey team or on college sports events that take place within the state.

Although it is difficult to gauge New Jersey’s direct influence, the restriction set a precedent and is likely to have been a persuading factor for the ten other jurisdictions, including New York, Virginia and Connecticut, that have since copied the limitation.

Illinois is another of the states that currently bans betting on in-state college sports but the state legislature passed a bill last week to allow wagers on Illinois college sports strictly in person at casinos and other retail sportsbook locations.

Polling for the New Jersey ballot initiative never appeared to favor passage and there did not to have been any kind of sustained campaign on the part of sportsbook operators to rally support for Tuesday’s referendum.

Still, at least one key figure central to the development of New Jersey’s sports-betting market had expressed optimism that voters would ultimately choose to lift the ban.

Richmond Mayor, Urban One Acknowledge Casino Defeat

The New Jersey college sports-betting referendum was not the only matter of interest to the gaming industry on Tuesday as both New Jersey and Virginia held general elections, while voters in various other states selected new mayors and held other localized ballots.

Richmond mayor Levar Stoney expressed his disappointment Wednesday at the failure of voters to approve a referendum that would allow the proposed Urban One Casino + Resort to be built in the southern part of Virginia's capital city.

“From the beginning, we said the people would decide,” Stoney said in a statement. “They have spoken, and we must respect their decision.”

Stoney said he thought it was a “$565m opportunity lost to create well-paying jobs, expand opportunity, keep taxes low and increase revenue to meet the needs of our growing city.”

“I’m deeply appreciative to the members of our economic development team who negotiated this project and to the Richmond city Council, which overwhelmingly supported it,” Stoney said.

Stoney also thanked Urban One for the company's willingness to commit to the casino project and invest in Richmond.

“Rest assured, this administration will not be deterred from its ongoing mission to bring other economic development opportunities to our city that will benefit the lives of all who live here,” he said.

The defeat came as local voters in the Virginia state capital of Richmond rejected the proposal by a narrow margin.

As of Wednesday, 39,824 or 51.44 percent of residents voted against the casino referendum, while 37,599 or 48.56 percent of residents supported the proposal.

Richmond was one of five Virginia cities eligible to host a casino under a 2020 state law, with projects earmarked for Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth all approved in local referenda held last November.

Richmond officials earlier this year chose to endorse the Urban One project, which would have been operated by Peninsula Pacific Entertainment.

“While extremely disappointed, our entire Urban One family … accept the will of the city of Richmond residents,” Alfred Liggins, Urban One CEO, said in a statement.

“For the last two years, we have worked so hard to build a large and inclusive tent with our One Casino + Resort project,” Liggins said.

“We ran a robust campaign and strongly believe this is a huge missed opportunity for Richmond residents to have a tourist attraction that would have provided the financial resources to improve schools and roads as well as enrich the lives of its citizens.”

Election Day 2022

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the unofficial results from Tuesday’s election in New Hampshire were posted, and voters in Nashua approved their city as a host location for a retail sportsbook that would be operated by DraftKings in accordance with a 2019 law that permits up to ten physical sportsbooks in the Granite State.

The vote was 7,387 to 6,207. Election officials said the results do not include handcounts or write-in votes.

Tuesday’s vote was essentially a do-over after New Hampshire’s second largest city initially rejected the opportunity to host sports betting two years ago.

In Portsmouth, however, local New Hampshire voters rejected legalizing keno, the bingo-like electronic games that are sold by 190 retail establishments in 84 towns and cities state-wide. Keno has generated more than $16.6m in sales this fiscal year, according to the New Hampshire Lottery.

The vote was 2,649 in favor to 2,770 opposed.

If Election Day 2021 was a relatively low-key year for the rapidly expanding U.S. sports-betting industry, then 2022 could be a blockbuster.

California will at least host a referendum next November to authorize retail sportsbooks at racetracks and tribal casinos, with three additional ballot proposals pending to also permit online sports betting if petitioners can collect enough voter signatures.

A similar ballot initiative to expand mobile sports betting is also being pushed by DraftKings and FanDuel in Florida, while major pro sports teams recently filed a proposed ballot measure in Missouri.

Georgia could conceivably make it a quartet of major sports-betting ballot measures next year, if the state's House of Representatives follows the Senate in passing a bill to regulate mobile sports wagering during its 2022 session.

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