Writing in the publication New Jersey.com this week, former New Jersey assistant attorney general Frank Catania argued for the legalization of online gambling to help Atlantic City to compete in a tougher market. The gambling centre is feeling the chill winds of competition from neighbouring states and the effects of the recession on the pockets of gamblers and their preparedness to travel to play.
"It is a fact that, like Atlantic City, other casino jurisdictions worldwide are also suffering. It is also true that the only part of the gaming industry not suffering from the current downturn is the online gaming market, which for a variety of reasons is still growing in these hard times," Catania wrote.
"So, to help our casino industry and keep tax revenues flowing in New Jersey, what better time could there be to reconsider intrastate Internet gaming (as California is doing right now for poker)?"
Catania knows whereof he speaks. In addition to his experience as a top New Jersey lawman, he is a respected international consultant on Internet gaming, has drafted regulations for online gambling licensing jurisdictions and is one of the independent directors on the board of the international standards and player protection organisation eCOGRA.
"Why not give our casinos a chance to offer a new and exciting product, not to discourage people from coming to Atlantic City, but to recapture a part of the gaming market that is being lost to other states? And why not keep tax revenues and other economic benefits in New Jersey, rather than watch them disappear into New York or Pennsylvania?" the gambling expert asks.
Catania goes on to discuss practical solutions to fears on underage and problem gambling, suggesting that the Legislature could require that initial registration be done in person in Atlantic City. The place of the wager could be designated as the location of the servers – that is, Atlantic City – which would eliminate any New Jersey constitutional issues.
And since the technology now exists to verify the geographic location of a bettor, the casinos could ensure that no wagers originated from computers located outside of New Jersey.
He also examines the question of US federal interference, pointing out that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 expressly exempts intrastate Internet betting from its prohibitions. He adds that the US Justice Department has yet to take legal action against any party that was not engaged in Internet sports betting, "…for the simple reason that there exist strong precedents and legal opinions that only Internet gaming on sporting events – not casino games – is precluded by federal law."
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This could be a win-win situation both for New Jersey and its casino industry, Catania concludes.
"In the world of gaming, especially in these bad economic times, there can be no better result than that."
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