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New Jersey Could Actually be the the First US State to Legalize Online Gambling

10 November 2010 by Devon Chappell
Could you think of a better reason why New Jersey should regulate online gambling?

Could you think of a better reason why New Jersey should regulate online gambling?

I gotta say, the way things have been looking, I’m not so sure if it’s going to be either Florida or California that legalizes online poker first. Otherwise known as the Garden State, good ‘ol New Jersey may end up becoming the first State in America to actually pass some serious legislation to not only tax and regulate online poker, but online casino gambling as well.

Come to think of it, I’m not surprised at all there is a good chance this could go down in New Jersey. Let us not forget it was New Jersey that brought us the insightful and poignant reality show, Jersey Shore. And, of course, there’s Atlantic City, which a friend of mine recently visited and summed up with a scene he witnessed while walking out of a casino in the wee morning hours – a man in a electric wheelchair feebly making his way down the beach shoreline into a blinding, rising sun. Need I say more? Okay, I’ll say it – Donald Trump’s hair piece.

Anyhow, even more on point is the fact that former New Jersey Gambling Commissioner, Frank Catania, is a major consultant for the Poker Players Alliance, which has been throwing it’s considerable weight around in a serious lobbying bid to get online poker legalized in the U.S.

Let’s just say that New Jersey is top contender for making online gambling regulation happen. It is estimated that half-a-million New Jersey residents already play online poker – none of which is being taxed. However, a bill going up for review at a New Jersey State Senate Committee Hearing, seeks to change this with a 20% tax on all gaming revenue – a rate which Senator Ray Lesniak (the bill’s sponsor) says could generate over $50 in annual tax revenue.

A major lobbyist for the bill, William Pascrell III, expressed optimism that the legislation, which also includes provisions for modernizing Atlantic City casino regulations, stands a fighting chance at getting passed. The thing about New Jersey is that it is experiencing a “perfect storm”, says Pascrell. Not only is an economic recession putting a strain on the State budget, both the horse racing and casino industries in New Jersey are struggling badly. By using some of the revenue generated through online gambling to subsidize the brick ‘n mortar gaming industry, the bill offers a win-win situation.

However, winning over land-based interests, as well as Governor Christie will prove the most challenging. The Casino Industry Association of New Jersey, which is partly made up of all the major casino operators in Atlantic City, has expressed opposition to the bill when it publicly surfaced back in June of this year.

The hope is that as the bill is discussed and certain provisions possibly changed, brick ‘n mortar casinos will come around to the idea. The same thing happened with Harrah’s, who now operates an interactive gaming division and recently launched a European-facing online casino and poker room. Furthermore, the American Gaming Association recently expressed its support of the bill. By giving brick ‘n mortar casinos the opportunity to launch their own online poker rooms and casino gaming package, and diverting online poker revenue to help keep racetracks afloat, the bill could very well make everyone happy.

But in order to do that, New Jersey would need to become a global online gambling Mecca of sorts. Pascrell contends that with current efforts to persuade Wall Street firms to build post-9/11 security data centers, the reality is closer than most people would think. Creating from 4,000 to 5,000 immediate jobs, the legalization of online gambling would certainly do wonders for the New Jersey economy.

But whether Governor Christie can tune out the anti-regulation camp – which includes conservative value interests and land-based interest who believe legalization will steal even more customers away from Atlantic City casinos – remains to be seen. Christie already declined to support Lesniak’s bid to overturn a 1992 ban on sports betting in 46 states. However, the Christie camp has not (yet) come out against the legalization of online casino poker gambling. A top aid had this to say: “Further legal analysis is needed to evaluate whether in-state internet gaming, operating with a hub in Atlantic City, is feasible at this time.”

A vote on the bill is likely to take place before the end of the year, with regulatory and licensing issues addressed within nine months of being passed into law.

One Response to “New Jersey Could Actually be the the First US State to Legalize Online Gambling”

  1. danielle jacobs says:

    well I hope New Jersey would be the stepping stone for the continuous legalization of online gambling in the US.