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New Jersey Renews Online Gambling Effort

By: Ryan Alders, Tuesday January 3rd 2012
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Last year New Jersey missed out on being the first American state to legalize and regulate online gambling when Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill passed by the state Senate and the Assembly. But nothing has been lost yet for New Jersey, because in the intervening period no other state has managed to reach this landmark.

The proponent of last year's initiative, Senator Ray Lesniak, intends to take advantage of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) change of policy on online gambling. Through the DoJ, the federal government cleared that intrastate online casino gambling will not violate the law. Lesniak told the Associated Press news agency that he would try to get a bill through the Legislature and on Governor Chris Christie's desk as early as next week. He said, "We can be the Silicon Valley of Internet gaming. It's the wave of the future. It's going to come and we can be in the lead on it."

Lesniak had introduced a new bill in August 2011, which addressed Governor Christie's concerns. This bill includes fines of $1,000 per player per day for anyone running an illegal online gambling operation and $10,000 for advertising such illicit operations. Those signing up at the online casinos would have to be New Jersey residents, physically present within state borders while gambling online and at least 21 years old. The technology for enforcing these conditions is available.

The bill contains provisions that aim to garner all round support. It seeks to reinstate two-thirds of the subsidies the casinos had to pay to the horse racing tracks until last year. The land casinos once had to pay $30 million a year for keeping slot machines out of the tracks. Lesniak's bill would require that online gambling licensees pay $20 million a year for three years to help the tracks through a difficult period. The bill would allocate $100,000 a year from online gambling revenues to fund programs for compulsive gamblers. Players would be able to set limits on how much they could bet or lose within a given time. Online gambling revenue would be taxed at 10% instead of the 8% tax on land casino revenue.

As of now, the bill is not scheduled for a vote on January 9, the last day of the current state legislative session. Lesniak is trying to have it approved in committees on January 5, then finally approved by the state Senate and Assembly on January 9 and sent to the Governor. A spokesman for Senate leadership said it would assess on January 3, if there is a case to fast forward the bill. A spokesman for the Assembly leadership has expressed similar sentiments. The Governor's spokesmen are not willing to make any comment.

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