New Jersey may soon order gambling education at universities that partner with sports betting operators or their vendors if SB4231 becomes law. Those institutions of higher learning must also offer students information about a problem gambling hotline, according to the bill that moved from the House to the Senate on Dec. 11.
If Senators approve the bill, it will become law after Gov. Phil Murphy signs it.
Currently, no such partnerships exist in New Jersey. So SB4231 is proactive.
However, such sports betting operator/university partnerships have existed at colleges in other states — including Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, and Michigan.
So the New Jersey bill would ensure that each higher education institution that accepts money from a sportsbook or sports betting vendor will create a “gambling addiction prevention program,” according to the 2-page-long measure.
The college or university agreeing to the sponsorship must also provide students with a problem gambling hotline number, reads the bill introduced by state Sen. Joseph P. Cryan, D-Union. That phone number “shall be posted on the website of the institution and in each sports facility, dormitory, library, and student center, and any other facility or area on campus that the institution determines to be appropriate.”
Gambling Education at Universities
Gambling education for minors and those younger than the legal gambling age is far from a new concept.
In one of the more recent proposals, a Michigan lawmaker suggested teaching high schoolers what they can do in the state when they turn 21. The bill proposed on Feb. 7 by state Sen. Joseph N. Bellino Jr., R-Monroe, even suggested age-appropriate K-12 lessons about responsible gaming. That legislation hasn’t advanced past the education committee.
Some nonprofits also offer opt-in educational resources.
However, this New Jersey bill that would mandate gambling education at universities that contract with sportsbooks does seem to be unique. That demographic includes 18, 19, and 20-year-old students who are below the legal gambling age. Also, it appears to be advancing farther in the New Jersey Legislature than gambling education bills have in other states.
Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey, D-Maplewood, introduced AB5498 on May 25 to ensure the Garden State is ready if those partnerships happen. On Nov. 20, the Assembly Higher Education Committee that Jasey leads moved the bill to the floor.
On Dec. 7, the New Jersey General Assembly approved Jasey’s bill in a 72-1-0 vote.
Cryan sponsored the bill in the Senate on Dec. 11, and SB4231 moved into the Senate Higher Education Committee that day.
New Jersey legislators hold two-year-long sessions. So, if SB4231 is taken up in the Senate, it will likely happen in 2024.
However, Cryan and Jasey didn’t immediately return a Dec. 18 request for comment from Bonus about the bill’s chance of passage.
Also, state Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham, D-Jersey City, didn’t reply on Dec. 18 to an email Bonus sent. Bonus asked the Senate President Pro Tempore and chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee if and when she plans to set a committee hearing for SB4231.
Gambling at Universities
Lawmakers and regulators level most of their criticism of gambling at the legal sportsbooks. That includes SB4231.
However, Americans gamble. Students gamble. They even did so before it was legalized.
Recent statistics about problem gambling match the numbers before states began legalizing sports betting.
States couldn’t legalize retail and online sports betting until May 2018, when the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
New Jersey was one of the first states to allow legal online sportsbooks to launch, doing so in August 2018. Most states didn’t do so for months, years, or at all.
However, a study conducted in November 2018 by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) and released in 2021 showed Americans were already betting on sports. They were using illegal offshore gambling sites.
About 29% of American sports bettors were between 18 and 24. Even then, NCPG reported sports bettors were at least three times as likely as other gamblers to exhibit problem behaviors.
Sadly, Americans continue to use Google to verify if such illegal sites are “rigged” or “legit,” and are still led to those sites or their third-party partners.
So that makes headlines like this one from Time a bit confusing. On Dec. 12, 2023, the magazine published An Explosion in Sports Betting Is Driving Gambling Addiction Among College Students.
The article by Oliver Staley reads, in part:
One out of 10 college students is a pathological gambler, according to one meta-analysis conducted by professors at the University of Buffalo, far higher than the 2-5% of the US general population estimated to have a gambling problem. Other studies place the number of student gambling addicts lower, but still higher than the overall population of pathological gamblers.
That sounds similar to what NCPG said in 2021.
Still, it may be wiser for state lawmakers and regulators to admit sports betting may remain a part of campus life. That seems to be happening in New Jersey. Sb4231 is aware that sportsbooks or their vendors may partner with universities.
That’s far different from what Cryan seemed to think on June 26 when he introduced SB4020 that:
Prohibits sports wagering partnerships at public institutions of higher education.
That bill entered the Senate Higher Education Committee that day and hasn’t left.
So perhaps SB4231’s proactive attitude about legal gambling is more realistic.