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Whelan-Van Drew Bill To Strengthen Casino Industry Signed Into Law

Senator Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Jim Whelan and Jeff Van Drew which strengthens the State’s casino industry by removing archaic casino regulations which hamper economic growth in Atlantic City was signed into law today by the Governor.

“This new law is about leveling the playing field for New Jersey’s struggling casino industry, and giving casinos a needed hand to make it through the current national recession,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic, and Chairman of the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. “At a time when every cent of savings helps, this bill removes unnecessary and draconian regulations which only serve to drive up the bottom line on casinos and bog honest people down in red tape. With his signature today, Governor Corzine has shown that he favors the economic vitality of the region over continuation of pointless bureaucracy.”

“These reforms will make it easier for Atlantic City’s casinos to do business, and will have zero impact on the protections put in place to protect the gaming industry from unscrupulous manipulation,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “New Jersey must do everything it can to encourage economic growth, particularly as businesses fight against the tide of a nearly unprecedented global economic crisis. This new law gives casinos a measure of relief from over-reaching State regulations, and will be a welcome shot in the arm to boost the industry.”

The bill, S-2519, makes various changes to the State’s Casino Control Act to remove minor provisions which hurt the economic vitality of Atlantic City’s casino industry. The bill removes the registration and licensing requirements for non-gaming vendors who engage in limited transactions with casinos within a given year. The bill also classifies computers used in the monitor room of casinos as non-gaming equipment, allowing for the location of monitoring sites outside of Atlantic City. And the bill permits casino licensees to withhold a percentage of a poker tournament prize pool to be used to fund gratuities for tournament dealers.

“If you want to buy a pack of gum on the casino floor, it shouldn’t mean the vendor had to jump through hoops to get the license,” said Senator Whelan. “There are steps that can be taken tomorrow to make casino operations more efficient and cost-effective. With this law in place, casinos will be able to make cost-cutting changes to the way they operate, without jeopardizing the integrity of the games.”

The bill also codifies the current practice of barring an employee for reemployment for five years if their license or registration has been revoked. The bill also makes changes to casinos’ relationship with the racing industry, allowing casinos to pay more to out-of-State sending tracks for the transmission of simulcast horse races, and allows casinos to simulcast the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in addition to the regular horse-racing season when the Breeders’ Cup is held in New Jersey.

Finally, the bill sets up provisions for unclaimed casino winnings, allowing the State Casino Revenue Fund and the casino licensee to split the unclaimed funds evenly in the first year, and 25% for the Casino Revenue Fund and 75% for the casino licensee after the initial payout. According to fiscal estimates, the State will receive $2.9 million in the current budget year, and $3.9 million in FY 10 through this provision; currently none of the unclaimed winnings escheat to the State.

“The most important part of this new legislation is the provision covering unclaimed casino winnings, which will mean new revenues not only for the State, but for the casino industry,” said Senator Van Drew. “In these tough economic times, we cannot afford to leave found money on the table. Through this new law, New Jersey and Atlantic City’s casinos will split the pot, and put unclaimed prizes to good use.”

The bill received final legislative approval from the Senate last month.

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