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NJ State Senate Committee Approves Online Gaming Bill

The New Jersey State Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee passed the online gaming bill, S1565, by overwhelming majority vote on Tuesday’s meeting. The online gaming bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak (D) and James Whalen (D), will enter the Senate and the General Assembly for a vote later in the month.  Eleven of the 12 committee members approved the measure with Paul Sarlo being the only member to abstain from approval due to his allegiance to the horse racing industry. 

By passing this online gaming bill, the state of New Jersey took a step forward to becoming one of the first states to offer online gaming in the US.  Furthermore, the New Jersey Senate committee believes that online gaming would add a revenue source in a state that has been stuck in a dire financial situation, especially considering the massive loss of revenue from the land based casinos. 

 “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” stated Sen. Lesniak to the Associated Press.

Lesniak and Whalen’s Bill would allow online wagering via the state’s 12 Atlantic City casinos and includes any game that is currently played in these establishments.  The online gaming bill would authorize in-state wagers, but opens the possibility of wagering from out-of-state and international customers given a confirmation of its legality.  The Atlantic City casinos would have to apply for licenses as well as partner with online gaming software companies in order to launch an operating site.  Each licensee would pay annual 10% gross tax revenue as well as an “issuance” fee of a minimum $200,000 and an “enforcement maintenance fee” of a minimum of $100,000. 

Though the approval marks a huge step towards legislation, the online gaming bill still faces many obstacles including potential legal issues, lingering concerns by Gov. Chris Christie, and opposition from horse racing supporters.  A previous version of the bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie in last year’s attempt to pass online gaming.  However, Sen. Lesniak has been working to amend the bill to appease the concerns of the Governor, including the exclusion of horse racing in the stipulations.  Horse racing lobbyist also vehemently disapproved of this amendment to the bill citing that it “promotes one form of gambling at the expense of another”.

Nevertheless, Sen. Lesniak and Sen. Whalen eye the next step towards bringing online gaming to New Jersey by September.  Both senators are excited about the potential opportunity and stress the idea of the first mover.  In an interview with eGamingReview, Sen. Lesniak firmly stated that “We must be first. We need to create the Silicon Valley of internet gaming in New Jersey because once those servers are built here, it will make us a hub.”

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