November 2 is a big day for New Jersey voters as they will be taking to the polls to choose their leaders; A total of 120 Assembly committee and senate seats will be looking to be filled in this year’s election. In addition to leaders, the people of NJ will also be making a decision on whether to expand sports betting to cover athletic contests. The focus of this poll will be on universities and colleges within the state which are traditionally responsible for popular sports events such as the March Madness basketball and football bowl.
For the likes of Ray Lesniak who led the process that ended up in sports gambling legalization in racetracks and casinos in Atlantic City, such a development would be cause for excitement. He however holds a different standpoint this time round; The Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll does little to convince him to support it.
In the poll whose results were publicized in July, the general opinion is that the respondents misunderstood the core question. Framed as, “Do you think betting on college sports in New Jersey should be allowed or should continue to be banned?” The poll outcome gave the impression that the people of New Jersey were against college sports betting.
While the message of the poll seems straightforward, it contradicts the current state of the gambling scene in NJ. There are existing NJ laws that are in support of college sports betting which is already taking place throughout the state; casinos, racetracks and an estimated 24 sportsbooks operated from brick and mortar establishments actively promote such contests.
The revenue collected from these avenues every year amounts to millions of dollars. According to the existing laws, bets made on college sports events between state institutions and on events held within the state between schools from outside the state are not allowed.
In the July poll, 803 registered voters participated in answering the first question that stated how the legislators of NJ were debating on a bill which would legalize betting on college sports events. For those who did not take part, the greatest point of concern for the poll results was whether the voters had given thought to the question; perhaps their perception was focused on amateur athletics.
Lesniak is of the opinion that there was limited understanding on the ballot, a factor that would be a proven channel to success. According to him, the voters have ideally been split into two categories; one that represented betting supporters and the other which had no idea what the question demanded of them and hence could not vote.
Vote Handicapping is directly related to a failure in Target advertising
Regardless of whether a vote is in support or against a certain ballot; there will be vote handicapping if there will be no investment in target advertising. As a matter of comparison, it makes sense that a certain group spent about $11 million creating negative ads to achieve a situation where the 2016 monopoly of Atlantic City casinos would come to an end.
Resort Casino of Atlantic City which owns Aqueduct slot parlors and Yonkers Raceway in collaboration with New York’s Catskills casino developer created a campaign dubbed Trenton’s Bad Bet. The aim of the partnership was to persuade the voters to shoot down the Trenton-insider-backed scheme. The success of the campaign had already been proven by the time summer was halfway and this shifted the perception of many people.
One of those who experienced a total mind-shift was Jeff Gural, the Racetrack operator of the Meadowlands who at the time was in the process of getting a new license for casino operations. He went on to drop a multi-million fund that had been opened in support of the ballot. In the end, the proposal in support of casino expansion was a flop; 77% of voters rejected it.
With such events taking place in the not-so-distant past, Lesniak believes that the only way a ballot of this magnitude would succeed is if it was preceded by a targeted campaign funded by an influential sportsbook in the NJ market. He also holds the opinion that such moves are drastic though totally called for because the stakeholders do not hold much regard for them.
Rutgers is a New Jersey football team and the only top league football club in the state. The club’s institution, Rutgers University, was the only college in the state of NJ to have qualified for the March Madness of 2020. There were a total of 67 tournament games lined up for the series; 65 had been opened for betting according to the state laws. Rutgers won their first game of the tournament but was eliminated when the competition became stiff.
As far as the ballot question is concerned, the electorate appears to understand the kind of response expected of them as opposed to the earlier poll conducted by FDU. If the people vote in favor of the poll question, it means that they are in support of betting in college games taking place in NJ and those happening in other states but hosting NJ college teams.
A vote that opposes the poll question is in turn banning betting on college sports for games held in the state and those that NJ teams take part in outside the state. It is important that the voters understand that the poll only refers to postseason college sports because betting is already legal for college competitions.
Some people might be wondering why the NJ lawmakers approved college competition betting but completely left out the sports betting portion. At the time of constituting the law, the legislators had concerns about linking college sports to betting. According to Lesniak, there was a general misperception on gambling at the time and this is where the discomfort came from.