A bill which would legalize internet gambling in New Jersey passed through the state Senate’s State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee Tuesday. Senate Bill 1565, sponsored by State Senators Raymond Lesniak (D – Union) and James Whelan (D – Atlantic), “…authorizes Internet wagering at Atlantic City casinos to enable New Jersey residents to place wagers on casino games via the Internet.”
As might be apparent by the one-sentence description, the servers and other equipment used to provide the online games must be located in Atlantic City, either in a secure area of a casino or secure facility off grounds but specifically designed to house online gaming equipment. All games which can be played at a brick-and-mortar casino, including poker, are eligible under S1565.
This would be intrastate online gambling, so only people physically located in New Jersey would be able to play. Interestingly, the bill does allow for participation by customers outside of New Jersey if the Division of Gaming Enforcement determines that it is allowable by federal law. This would not just include players in other states, but those in other countries, as well.
The annual fee to hold an online gaming license will be at least $200,000 and renewals will cost at least $100,000. Additionally, another annual fee of at least $100,000 will be allocated to problem gambling programs. Online gaming operators will be taxed 10 percent on gross revenues.
“This is another step forward toward my goal of New Jersey becoming the Silicon Valley of Internet gaming, generating hundreds of millions in revenues for our casino industry, thousands of jobs for Atlantic City, and tens of millions of revenues for our Casino Revenue Fund to help seniors and the disabled,” Senator Lesniak told the Associated Press.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill last year, citing concerns of online gambling licensees operating all over the state. Senators Lesniak and Whalen worked to address his concerns, though, and now the bill limits online casino licensees to Atlantic City.
In January, Governor Christie said, “Here’s my view on it. I think New Jersey should be in that business. I think we should be an epicenter for that business, but I want to do it right. I do not want to rush and get legislation that either doesn’t pass state constitutional muster or creates other problems for us.”
“Folks should know I favor it, I want to do it,” he added. “I vetoed the last bill because I felt that it would open up the opportunity for there to be internet gambling houses all over the State of New Jersey. I don’t think that’s what anybody wants. But, I think being able to have this be an Atlantic City centric thing is something that makes sense to me. And given the Justice Department’s go ahead for people to be able to do it, I think we should go ahead and move on it. But, we have to do it in a responsible way and it should be Atlantic City centric.”
The bill now moves to the Senate floor for a full Senate vote.