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Lesniak-Whelan Bill To Allow Casinos To Operate Internet Wagering Receives Final Legislative Approval

Measure Would Allow NJ Casinos to Compete for New, Lucrative Gaming Market

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Jim Whelan which would allow Atlantic City’s casinos to offer Internet-based wagering to gaming consumers was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 33-3, receiving final legislative approval.

“If New Jersey’s casinos wish to compete in the 21st century, we have to give them the freedom to adapt to a 21st Century marketplace,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “By allowing casinos to tap into the burgeoning trend of Internet wagering, we can put New Jersey at the forefront of this lucrative gaming market and give our casinos the competitive edge they need in the current economic climate. This bill will mean more jobs, more revenues for our casinos, more tax revenues for worthy programs like health and housing assistance for seniors and people living with disabilities, and a healthier gaming industry in the Garden State.”

The bill, S-1565, would authorize casinos to establish intrastate Internet wagering operations to offer casino games of chance via the World Wide Web. Under the bill, licensed casino operators – or in some cases, Internet gaming affiliates that are also licensed via the Division of Gaming Enforcement and are working in conjunction with a licensed casino – would be able to set up and operate Internet wagering, enabling New Jersey residents to place wagers on casino games via the Internet. The bill stipulates that the primary equipment for running an Internet wagering program would have to be located in Atlantic City, although backup equipment could be located anywhere else in the State, and the casino or their affiliate would have to verify that every player is physically present in the State of New Jersey in order to comply with the federal Wire Act and other interstate trade compacts.

Under the bill, casinos or their affiliates would be allowed to offer the same variety of games currently available on their Atlantic City casino gaming floors.

Ten percent of all Internet gaming proceeds would be directed into the state’s Casino Revenue Fund, which provides direct financial support to multiple health and housing-related programs for senior citizens and residents with disabilities. In FY 2011, the fund provided roughly $275 million in total support to such programs.

“Not only would Internet wagering be a welcomed shot in the arm for our casino industry, but it would also generate much-needed funds for programs like PAAD (Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled), the Senior Citizen Property Tax Freeze and the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, casino gaming has seen a little bit of an economic slump, and that affects casino employees as well as programs that depend on funding through the Casino Revenue Fund. By making Internet wagering available to our State’s casinos, we can diversify our gaming product in New Jersey and allow casinos to reap some of the estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that Internet gaming can generate in the Garden State.”

The bill was approved by the Assembly earlier this week by a vote of 48-25, with three abstentions. It now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.

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