12/10/10 – Legalisation bill among a dozen passed by key committee Thursday
Senator Ray Lesniak's bill proposing the intrastate legalization of online gambling in New Jersey moves another step forward this week with the news that it was among a dozen bills passed late Thursday by the state House of Assembly's Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee. The bill has already survived several committees and a Senate vote.
Local media reported that the bills, mostly designed to revive the state horse racing and Atlantic City casino industries, drew bipartisan support in a 3 hour session as legislators raced to send many of the bills to Governor Christie’s desk before the end of the year.
With passage through the key Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee now behind it, Lesniak's bill could be brought to a vote in the Assembly as early as next Monday, making it the first state in the Union to legalise online gambling.
Governor Christie has said he is not philosophically opposed to Internet gambling, but that the legality of the concept was still being reviewed by his administration.
The committee also offered its support for another measure, one that seeks a statewide referendum next fall on legalising sports betting at Atlantic City’s casinos, as well as at the Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park.
State Senator Lesniak, a Democrat who has been energetic and determined in pushing the legalization bill through its various obstacles and stages, told the committee that by allowing online gaming only for New Jersey residents within New Jersey state lines, the state would not run afoul of federal restrictions on such gambling.
Lesniak added that an economic analysis showed that Internet gambling would produce $210 million to $250 million in annual gross revenues.
The Lesniak bill initially recommends a 15 percent tax on Internet gaming revenue. About $30 million of the tax proceeds would be used to supplement horse racing purses — replacing a similar purse supplement that had been provided by the Atlantic City casinos.
“This bill would create a bridge to self-sufficiency for the horse racing industry,” Lesniak said.
On the sportsbetting initiative, Lesniak and his law firm have filed a federal lawsuit attempting to strike down previous law as unconstitutional. Federal law currently permits sports wagering — other than horse racing and jai alai — only in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. And only Nevada is allowed to offer single bets, such as wagering on one National Football League game or another based on a point spread.
Christie has dismissed the suit as pointless, given current federal law, while Lesniak countered Thursday that the state risks seeing the suit thrown out of federal court unless political support is demonstrated.