New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak has re-introduced a bill that, if passed, would bring more players to the state’s online poker rooms. His bill, S980, allows for New Jersey’s online gaming sites to accept customers from both other states and other countries; to this point, only those within New Jersey’s borders have been able to play on its sites.
The complete text of the bill has not been uploaded to the New Jersey Legislature’s website yet, but the overall idea is fairly simple. It will allow open New Jersey’s online gaming borders to people from other jurisdictions where internet gaming is legalized and regulated, regardless of whether or not said jurisdiction is in the United States. New Jersey would first have to ink interstate or foreign internet gambling compacts with those jurisdictions in order to permit people from those locations to play on New Jersey-based online gambling sites, including those that offer online poker. Thus, should this bill turn into law, the floodgates wouldn’t immediately open; agreements would still have to be made with other states and countries.
The reason for the proposed legislation is rather obvious. While New Jersey is one of the most populous states in the U.S., capable of supporting internet gaming on its own, the Atlantic City-based sites are still restricted to offering services to customers within state borders. Opening up their sites to people in other states and even other countries would increase their potential customer bases by millions. This is of particular importance to online poker rooms, as busier tables not only produce more rake, but are also more attractive to prospective players and thus help create more traffic by their mere existence.
Currently, only two other states have regulated online gambling: Nevada and Delaware. Nevada only allows poker, while both Delaware and New Jersey permit casino gaming such as blackjack and roulette, as well. There has been talk from all three states about the possibility of interstate compacts, though nothing has gained momentum yet. Nevada and Delaware would have the most to gain from any such deal, as they are much smaller, in terms of population, than New Jersey.
Lesniak’s bill would have revenues earned from foreign players taxed at the same rates as those from New Jersey residents are already taxed: 15 percent, plus a 2.5 percent fee which goes to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. Any taxes imposed by foreign governments would be cancelled out by a tax credit in New Jersey, so operators need not fear double taxation.
The bill also requires sites to display detailed records on players’ accounts, including information such as total amounts won and lost, duration of sessions, wins and losses per session, and money spent on non-gaming purchases (such as from a site’s promotional store).
Senator Lesniak has long been a supporter of online poker and was one of the primary forces behind the legalization and regulation of online gambling in New Jersey. He had been trying to get internet gaming legislation passed since 2011, and though his bills easily passed through the State Senate and Assembly on more than one occasion, they kept running into road blocks in the form of Governor Chris Christie. Finally, in February 2013, Christie gave an online gambling bill a “conditional veto,” which required the legislature to make a few easy changes. He signed the bill shortly thereafter.