TRENTON, NJ -- The New Jersey Assembly's Regulatory Oversight Committee voted unanimously on Dec. 9 to legalize online gambling for state residents. The bill had already passed the New Jersey Senate in late November by a vote of 29-5.
Proponents say the bill, designated S-490, is likely to pass the full Assembly on Monday, Dec. 13, and could become law by January, unless it's vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.
The governor's position on legalizing Internet gambling is unknown; however, in July Christie declined to support a lawsuit that would have ended New Jersey's ban on sports betting.
The gambling bill is sponsored by Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). If enacted, it would let Atlantic City casinos provide Internet versions of casino games. Estimates of potential annual grosses range from $250 million to $290 million within five years. Of this, 20% would be paid in taxes to the state, resulting in $55 million or more in new funds for New Jersey government coffers.
At the national level, U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been seeking during the past 10 days to have his online poker legalization bill incorporated into the pending compromise tax package that was recently endorsed by President Obama and Senate Republicans. Reid's efforts have been sharply criticized by leaders of both parties, and appear unlikely to succeed.
In the event that Reid's online poker bill does not pass, and that an Internet casino legalization bill by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Boston) does not clear the House, observers have said that a state government -- Florida, California or New Jersey, for example -- may legalize online gambling, but only for players within the state.
The worldwide online gambling industry generates an estimated $330 billion or more in revenues from more than 2,000 online casinos, all of which are licensed overseas and operated through foreign Internet servers.
Any legalization of U.S. online poker or casino games is projected to provide significant competition to the music and amusement industry for American consumers' leisure spending.