Online gaming in limbo in N.J.

Jun 11, 2001 12:19 AM


In the wake of the Nevada Legislature’s passage of an online gaming bill, sponsors of similar legislation in Atlantic City are sore that their bill is languishing in political limbo, the victim of opposition from skeptical casino bosses.

Assemblymen Anthony Impreveduto and Neil Cohen, both northern New Jersey Democrats, blame the Republican-controlled Legislature - and particularly Sen. Bill Gormley, the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the gaming industry’s chief advocate in Trenton - for keeping the bill bottled up in legislative committee.

Impreveduto told The Press of Atlantic City last week that failure to move on the bill, which would allow Atlantic City’s casinos to offer their games online, will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

He went on to blast Gormley as “the guru of the casino industry” and called New Jersey “an ostrich with its head in the sand.”

Gormley was not available for comment, according to the report.

Speaking for the city’s 12 casinos, Timothy Wilmott, a top Harrah’s executive who presides over the Casino Association of New Jersey, said there are too many issues that remain unclear regarding online gaming and advised a wait-and-see attitude until Nevada moves forward.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn is expected to sign that state’s online bill into law.

Tribe seeks casino

The Nipmuc Indian Tribe is negotiating to buy 300 acres in central Massachusetts for a casino big enough to compete with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in neighboring Connecticut.

Backed by deep-pocket investors like Lakes Gaming Inc., the tribe has retained two high-powered lobbyists to make their case in the Legislature, according to a report last week in The Boston Globe.

If the state balks - and some lawmakers say a full-blown casino lacks enough votes in the Legislature and the support of Gov. Jane Swift to become reality - the tribe has threatened to take its plans across the state line to Connecticut.

Ohio mulls VLTs

An Ohio Senate committee is considering letting voters decide whether to place thousands of video lottery terminals in the state’s racetracks.

Supporters of the plan told the Senate Ways and Means Committee that 1,500 VLTs would generate between $700 million and $800 million a year and raise more than $422 million for school funding and other purposes. Opponents argue the move would amount to creating casinos at the tracks, which Ohio voters have twice rejected in the last several years. Opponents also contend the machines foster problem gambling.

The measure, sponsored by Ways and Means Chairman Louis Blessing, needs three-fifths approval from both the House and Senate to get on the ballot.

WMS in hot water

Michigan regulators are considering fines or other penalties against WMS Gaming for failing to notify them of slot machines problems that allowed gamblers to cheat the machines and play for free.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has set a hearing date of June 20 to review allegations the Chicago-based slot giant failed to fully disclose the software glitches to the board and notify it in a timely manner, according to a report in The Detroit News.

The board also says the company did not notify it of negotiations with MGM Grand Detroit Casino to cover losses the casino incurred as a result of the problems.

The glitches, which

occurred over nearly two years, were centered in the bill acceptor devices on the slot machines and allowed players to get free credits after inserting money into the machines. WMS later agreed to pay MGM $1.2 million in connection with the problems.

Bill nixes casinos

The Tennessee House voted in favor of a bill last week that specifically excludes casino gambling from a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize a state lottery.

Arguing that Indian tribes have used lotteries to justify casino gambling on tribal lands, Rep. Mark Maddox said his bill is intended to indicate Tennessee’s clear opposition to casinos should the lottery resolution pass.

Opponents of the measure said the bill would limit the lottery’s revenue potential by restricting it to only a few games.

The bill is currently being reviewed in committee in the state Senate.

Tribal revenue sought

New Mexico may ask gaming tribes to pay interest on overdue revenue-sharing payments the state claims are owed to it by the tribes.

One state lawmaker said the interest rate could be as high as 15 percent, but officials refused to confirm that figure while talks continue with the tribes on new federally mandated gaming compacts.

The state is seeking $100 million in back payments from Indian casinos on their slot machine revenue.

The existing compacts date back to 1997 and call for tribes to share 16 percent of slot revenues with the state. Several tribes protested the amount and some stopped making payments. The Attorney General’s Office sued the tribes for the money last June. An outcome on that legal action is pending.

Since the lawsuit, the Legislature has approved compacts with 11 tribes that agreed to pay the 16 percent.

Regulators stranded

A bill to fund California’s new gambling commission was defeated in the Senate last week, throwing the future of the state’s regulatory environment into chaos.

While the vote may come up again this week, the situation left the commission struggling in its efforts to take control of the state’s rapidly expanding Indian gaming industry.

Gov. Gray Davis appointed members of the commission last August, but they’ve been working in borrowed office space and lack a staff of their own.

Gaming tribes are fighting a revenue-sharing agreement to fund the commission and have challenged the commission’s first full-year budget, which has already been cut 27 percent.