Since Fairleigh Dickinson and Seton Hall both bowed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this year, it really wasn’t. Still, in New Jersey, where this year’s tournament was the first in history with legal sports betting, there will always be an asterisk beside any bracket contests.
Not the big bold asterisk it would have been if either school had made a magical run to the Final Four, or even won more than just a First Four game.
But an asterisk none the less: the law New Jersey passed that launched legal sports betting across the Garden State does not allow sportsbooks to take bets on New Jersey teams or any college basketball games played inside the state.
New Jersey’s local college betting ban
The rule means games involving Fairleigh Dickinson and Seton Hall were off the board and out of March Madness brackets this year. Plus, until further notice, New Jersey isn’t likely to host any NCAA Tournament games either.
Of course, the law didn’t taint the first year of March Madness betting in New Jersey too badly. But the fact that it possibly could have, and that the law is otherwise a contradictory waste of time, means New Jersey lawmakers should make sure it’s gone before the first round of the NCAA Tournament tips off in 2020.
If this particular law is an attempt to prevent corruption and game fixing, it’s tantamount to saying New Jersey schools and their athletes are more susceptible to it than others. That’s not only insulting, but it’s also misguided.
Ignoring the illegal sports betting market
It fails to recognize that if New Jersey college athletes wanted to get involved in game fixing there are other places they can bet on the games beside legal NJ sportsbooks.
The truth is, states don’t pass legal sports betting bills to earn tax revenue off of a new market. States pass legal sports betting bills to take tax revenue off of the existing illegal sports betting market.
Betting, particularly on March Madness, has always been here. Legalizing it has only served to bring it out of the darkness and into the light. Presumably, this alone should help prevent corruption and game fixing, making NJ’s ban on local college wagering rather superfluous.
If New Jersey wants to prevent corruption in local college basketball, there other ways to go about it. In fact, the state can actually do a lot more with betting on local games out in the open.
Plus, it’s not like allowing betting on local teams would be setting some kind of precedent. Other states already allow it, including neighboring Pennsylvania, where you can bet more people were wagering on Villanova games in the tournament this year than most others.
Sports betting makes dollars and sense
It’s difficult to find any truly logical reason for a ban on local college betting in NJ. So, it just makes sense to get rid of it. Remove the asterisks. Then, maybe next year the local gaming industry can start rooting for NJ teams. Instead of against the idea they’ll ruin a bracket contest by running deep.
It was not that big a deal this year. However, that’s not the point There’s really no reason why it should ever be.