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New Jersey Online

Bill Delayed Legislature expected to approve it in January

New Jersey Online

A revised bill that would legalize internet gambling inside the state of New Jersey came close to passing just before the holidays, but was shelved when it became clear that, procedurally, it had to return to a tax committee since it included adding a taxing structure to state law.

When the New Jersey Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee first passed the bill, it contained one fatal flaw: although it limited U.S. bets to those living in New Jersey, it permitted wagers from outside the country in nations where online gaming is legal. Experts said that other online gaming bills passed by North Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands were declared illegal by the U.S. Department of Justice because they permitted such bets.

But last month, a revised bill sailed out of the committee, with the provision for foreign wagers stripped from it. Senator Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the bill, said that provision was removed to avoid “World Trade Organization concerns.” Lesniak was referring to a case brought by Antigua, the home to several online gaming sites, against the U.S. before the WTO, charging that the country unfairly blocks the Antiguan casinos while allowing other forms of online gaming.

Remaining in the bill are provisions that allow the Atlantic City casinos to run the online casinos. The tax rate also remains steady at 20 percent. The sites must be operated on the premisis of the Atlantic City casinos because they are the only places in the state legally permitted to offer casino gambling.

Revenue from the activity would go to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and a portion of that revenue would be dedicated for a set amount of time to the state’s struggling racing industry. This was the item that was altered in the final version of the bill, which requires it to return to the tax committee.

The bill will then go to the full Assembly for a vote, and then to the Senate, where passage is likely. Governor Chris Christie has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, but the provision to provide some of the revenue to the racing industry could be a reason he would sign it.