Online Gambling in New Jersey


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Ever since Resorts International opened its doors on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1978, gambling has been legal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Blackjack, slot machines, roulette and many other casino games have been available to tourists and New Jersey residents on the eastern seaboard. But now, since the advent of the Internet, gamblers can do all of that without leaving home by wagering at any number of online gambling sites.

Technically speaking, internet gambling is not currently legal in the state of New Jersey. However, New Jersey lawmakers are working hard to put legislation in place that will legalize online gambling in the state. The most recent proposal to regulate online gambling in New Jersey was co-sponsored by Senator Raymond Lesniak and is currently before the state legislature. The measure has been delayed at least until the end of April as legislators concentrate on budgetary matters affecting the Garden State. Governor Christie’s staff is said to be working with Sen. Lesniak to draft the legislation in a manner that will meet Christie’s approval.

Update 06/04/12

A Senate committee approved online gambling on casino games in a vote of 11-0 with one Senator abstaining. The proposal now goes up for a full vote before the Senate and Assembly, possibly later this month. The bill in its current form will allow compacts with other states and may eventually permit other countries to wager at online New Jersey casinos.

Atlantic City had been the no. 2 ranked U.S. gambling resort destination behind Las Vegas, Nevada, for more than 30 years. Pennsylvania took over the second place ranking by generating over $515 million in gross revenue at its 11 casinos for the first two months of 2012 to $479 million taken in by New Jersey casinos.

Upcoming Changes to New Jersey Legislation

The Off Shore Gaming Association, a self-assessed “watchdog” for the protection of online gaming, recently carried coverage about the possibility of the New Jersey Legislature passing a bill that would legalize online poker. The story, written by NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan on March 12[1], covers Seton Hall Law professor John B. Wefing’s testimony that the New Jersey Legislature has the ability to legalize online poker without putting the issue before voters in the November election and also without violating the state constitution. Although a similar bill was passed by lawmakers a year ago, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed that bill, citing concerns with the New Jersey constitution.

A Brief History of Gambling in Atlantic City

Gamblers have been flocking to New Jersey to try their luck at Atlantic City casinos ever since the Casino Gambling Referendum was passed in 1976. But it almost didn’t come to pass. The initial vote in November 1974 failed, with 60 percent voting against the legalization of gambling in New Jersey. However, two years later, a second referendum to legalize gambling in Atlantic City passed by a margin of 1,500,000 votes to 1,140,000. In May 1978, Resorts International was the first casino to open its doors to east coast gamblers, with eight more casinos opening by the mid-1980[2].

atlantic city casinos

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission (CCC) and Department of Law and Public Safety Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) are the two bodies that govern gambling in Atlantic City. The New Jersey State Constitution is very clear regarding gambling, which, according to Article 4, Section 7, Paragraph 2, of the state’s constitution, says, “No gambling of any kind shall be authorized by the Legislature unless the specific kind, restrictions and control thereof have been heretofore submitted to, and authorized by a majority of the votes cast by, the people at a special election or shall hereafter be submitted to, and authorized by a majority of the votes cast thereon by, the legally qualified voters of the State voting at a general election…. By action of the Legislature, certain legalized games of chance, licensed casinos in Atlantic City, authorized State lotteries, and authorized gambling on running and harness horse races have been made legal in New Jersey[3].”

The Internet and Online Gambling

While online gamblers who happen to live in New Jersey undoubtedly take the risk and place bets in online casinos, the DGE doesn’t leave much of a gray area on the legality of online gambling. “Internet gambling, of any kind, is not legal in New Jersey. Unlike our Atlantic City casinos, Internet casinos are not regulated. That means that we have not tested the games to make sure that they operate fairly and with integrity. Further, even if a person wins an Internet wager from a casino-style game, horse race or sporting event, we cannot be sure that he or she will ever be paid[4].”

The DGE wants to protect New Jersey gamblers, and at the same time, direct the dollars of would-be online gamblers into the casinos it regulates. But people gamble online anyway. The regulatory bodies in New Jersey are aware of this. Perhaps the DGE best sums up the law by saying, “No matter where the site operators are located, Internet gambling is illegal in New Jersey. It is not legal to offer online gambling to New Jersey residents or to accept bets placed in New Jersey, and it is not legal to operate Internet gambling in New Jersey.”

The State of New Jersey does have a bill in place (N.J.S.2A:40-3)[5] that would void credit card transactions of those who participate in online gambling and allow the state to recover losses brought about by illegal gambling.

Future Outlook For Online Gambling in New Jersey

New Jersey has long been known as a gambling mecca, with its many casinos located in Atlantic City. As such, most lawmakers are intent on transferring that to cyberspace to take advantage of the much needed revenue that online poker and gambling would bring to state coffers. With a new proposal before the state legislature and the desire to not fall behind the other U.S. gambling hotspot of Nevada, prospects seem good that online gambling will eventually receive proper legislative support to allow New Jersey residents to play poker and other casino games online.

Sen Lesniak recently spoke for many New Jersey lawmakers when he said, “I don’t want to be left behind the state of Nevada like we were with sports betting. I don’t want that to happen again, and I don’t want Nevada to monopolize this market.” Gov. Christie, despite last year’s veto, also recently said, “I think New Jersey should be in that [online poker] business.”

New Jersey is already in the gambling business, and its only a matter of time before they are also in the online gambling business. A good bet would be that New Jersey legislators approve online gambling sometime in 2012.

References:

[1] Why online gambling in New Jersey doesn’t need voters approval by NorthJersey.com
[2] History of Gambling in Atlantic City by the Atlantic City Free Public Library
[3] New Jersey State Constitution regarding online gambling
[4] Stance on online gambling by the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement
[5] Bill N.J.S.2A:40-3 by the NJ State government