UNITED STATES NEWS

New Jersey governor considers 5-year extension of internet gambling

Jun 30, 2023, 2:36 PM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A bill to extend internet gambling in New Jersey for another five years is in the hands of Gov. Phil Murphy, following its approval Friday by the state Legislature.

The measure was approved by the state Assembly and Senate with minimal opposition from lawmakers, and now goes to the Democratic governor for action.

But the approval did little to dispel the mystery surrounding unexpected and unannounced changes made to the bill earlier this week that have rankled the Atlantic City casino industry.

Internet gambling began in New Jersey 10 years ago. The original renewal bill would have extended it for another 10 years.

But on Tuesday, an Assembly panel cut that to just two years without discussing or even announcing the change. Since then, lawmakers have repeatedly declined to say why the extension was shortened. The next day, the extension was set at five years — again, without explanation.

The trade association for the Atlantic City casino industry has said a full 10-year extension is vital to the continued success of the casinos.

Daniel Heneghan, a gambling industry consultant, said the changes may already have damaged New Jersey’s nation-leading internet gambling market.

“Reducing the time from 10 years to five years is the wrong way to go,” said Heneghan, who previously covered the Atlantic City gambling industry as a newspaper reporter and then worked as a spokesperson for the state Casino Control Commission. “It sends the wrong message to companies interested in being involved in internet gaming.”

Since New Jersey began taking internet bets in November 2013, Atlantic City’s casinos and their online partners have won $6.29 billion from gamblers, according to the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s national trade group. That does not include money from online sports bets.

Internet gambling was widely credited with helping Atlantic City’s casinos stay afloat during 3 1/2 months of shutdowns in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, as well as in the lean months that followed the casinos reopening, as many gamblers remained wary of venturing out to crowded indoor spaces.

There was some speculation this week among Atlantic City casino and political officials that the Legislature’s move might represent potential leverage over the city in terms of possibly raising the amount of gambling taxes collected by the state in the future. That rate is 8% on in-person winnings from gamblers at casinos, 13% for online sports betting and 15% for internet gambling.

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Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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New Jersey governor considers 5-year extension of internet gambling