Rutgers ends March Madness drought — But you can’t bet on the game
Betting on sports has been legally underway in the Garden State since 2018, and for the first time in 30 years, Rutgers University men's basketball will be a part of NCAA March Madness.
But as long as you're in New Jersey, you may not bet on Rutgers' first matchup or any other tournament game they play in this year should the team advance on Friday night.
That's because New Jersey currently prohibits bets on in-state collegiate games or those played in other states that involve New Jersey-based college teams. Such a prohibition was included in the constitutional amendment process when Garden State voters chose nearly a decade ago to permit sports betting here.
"In order for that to go off the books, the state Legislature would have to agree upon and pass a proposed amendment to the Constitution, and then on top of that, it would need to be voted on by New Jersey voters during a statewide referendum," said C.J. Fisher, a partner at Fox Rothschild in Atlantic City.
Fisher, a member of the firm's Gaming Practice Group, noted New Jersey is not the only sports-betting state that blocks wagers related to in-state teams and games. One concern is that college athletes, who aren't paid millions annually like professionals, could be swayed to impact the outcome of a game if it meant they could be in for a big payday on the side.
Potentially scratching the current ban is on the minds of New Jersey lawmakers. In November, the Senate Budget Committee approved a bill that calls for a public referendum to significantly expand collegiate sports betting — for both postseason and regular season play. In order for the issue to reach the November 2021 ballot, legislation would need to be approved by three-fifths of both the Assembly and Senate by early August.
"A lot of New Jersey residents, if they do want to bet on Rutgers, they could simply drive over the bridge to Pennsylvania, open up an account in Pennsylvania, and still bet on the game," Fisher said.
In October, the Prudential Center in Newark learned that it will be the site of a regional group of games in the 2025 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. If New Jersey's rules don't change by then, no one in the state would be able to bet on any of the games played there.
Rutgers' round-of-64 NCAA Tournament game against Clemson is scheduled for March 19 at 9:20 p.m. It will air on TBS.