Internet gambling bill being considered by NJ lawmakers

May 14, 2012 10:07 AM

An Internet gambling bill being considered by New Jersey lawmakers could allow Atlantic City’s casinos to take bets from people in other states or countries, although key details remain to be worked out.

A state Assembly panel approved the bill Thursday with an amendment that would let New Jersey take out-of-state bets, as long as the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement determines that doing so wouldn’t violate federal law. A Senate committee approved a similar bill last month.

Both measures now go for full votes in their respective chambers, though none were immediately scheduled.

Whether to require gamblers to physically be present in New Jersey is just one of several important questions that need to be decided before the bill is approved.

“Nothing can happen outside our state borders unless the federal government acts, and that’s not likely anytime soon,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli.

New Jersey was poised to become the first state in the nation last year to approve Internet gambling, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it. He cited concerns about its constitutionality, and about the possibility of unauthorized online backroom betting parlors popping up.

Lawmakers took a number of steps to address Christie’s concerns, including prohibiting advertising and organizing Internet gambling by anyone except casinos. They also would require that the computer servers that handle the bets be located in Atlantic City to comply with a state constitutional requirement that all casino gambling take place in that city.

A spokesman for Christie did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.

The U.S. Justice Department in December ruled that in-state online bets — not involving sports teams — do not violate federal law.

The law also faces strong opposition from the state’s horse racing industry, which wants to be included in it as well.

Robert Griffin, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, urged the legislature to pass the bill, saying it would benefit Atlantic City’s casino resorts.

“The state of New Jersey must be in the forefront of legalizing this emerging marketplace,” he told the Assembly committee. “Currently, millions of Americans engage in online gaming with illegal offshore operators with no oversight, no regulation, and no consumer protection. The state should regulate this activity, enforce strict standards to ensure the games are fair, and collect revenue rather than allow profits and jobs to illegally go overseas.”

Assemblyman Ruben Ramos Jr. said the state needs to act to keep up with evolving technology.

“The Internet has long been a reality, and Internet gaming in New Jersey should now be reality too,” he said. “We have to move aggressively and thoughtfully to position our gaming industry to succeed, and this is another step toward that goal.”