By David Cruz
The NCAA decision technically means that facilities like the Prudential Center here in Newark can resume hosting tournament and championship games, but it’s kind of a moot point because the 2014 and 2015 NCAA Division I tournament games that were scheduled for the Rock will be played in New York instead, costing the Rock — and the City of Newark — a lot of money.
“It’s disappointing whenever you lose an economic growth opportunity,” says Assemblyman Al Coutinho (D-29). “Clearly, the tournaments were important to the state of New Jersey and to Newark. You’re talking about a lot of outsiders, hotel nights and restaurant visits.”
By some estimates, we’re talking about $6 million. In New Jersey, tournament games in Hoboken, Newark and Trenton will all be lost this year, an economic pain for sure, there. But in Montclair, the women’s basketball team has had to play its first two NCAA tournament games out of state, a disadvantage for even the undefeated Red Hawks, says former MSU All American and current Vice President Carol Blazejowski.
“You know the opportunity to have a team play in the NCAA is a big deal and the community, the college community is missing out on an opportunity because it’s the rally cry,” said Blazejowski. “You’d be surprised what the home team advantage can do for a team, and you’ve worked the whole season to get there.”
Last week’s court ruling that the state could not institute sports gambling despite the fact that voters approved it at the polls last year prompted the NCAA reversal. Gov. Christie says he’s not backing down.
“I’ll appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court if I can and I will,” warned Christie. “If somehow they think that because I lost in one court, that I’m giving up — One, they don’t know me and Two, they’re ill-informed.”
Supporters of legalized gambling say that a successful appeal of the court’s ruling could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state, and would take sports betting out of the shadows and from under the control of other, more nefarious forces, like organized crime. If that means Jersey teams lose out on tournament games and cities like Newark miss out on economic activity, so be it.
“Yes, we would like the NCAA here but when you balance this from an economic perspective, the revenue generated from sports betting will dwarf any economic impact, no matter how large, that the NCAA events would have in our state,” reasoned Coutinho.
State officials say they plan to appeal the sports betting ban and are confident of their success but the NCAA says that if that happens, they’ll reverse their decision again, which will leave everyone back at square one.