New Jersey Needs Internet Casinos Even More After Sandy: Lawmaker
Online Gaming Advocate Making One Last Push Before 2013
Sen. Ray Lesniak, a long-time New Jersey online poker advocate, is making one last push at legalization this year in order to stop Atlantic City casinos from “bleeding revenue profusely.”
Lesniak told Card Player that the plan is to vote on the legislation in the Assembly on Dec. 17, the Senate on Dec. 20, and send it to the governor’s desk immediately. A revised version of the proposal was released Monday, after languishing untouched since June.
Early this year the state flirted with imposing a 20-percent tax on the business. The revised bill would make it 10 percent. Lesniak said that a lower rate will keep New Jersey more competitive with others looking at online gaming, and that in order to have state compacts the New Jersey rate couldn’t be too high.
Along with stopping the bleeding, Lesniak reiterated that his goal all along has been to make Atlantic City the “Silicon Valley of Internet gaming.”
The problem is that Las Vegas wants the same. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has said that Clark County could be the “nerve center” for the industry. This all matters more to lawmakers since the giant U.S. gaming companies make money in both jurisdictions.
For Lesniak, Nevada is an adversary in all of this. He wants to help his state “keep pace” with what Nevada regulators are doing. Web poker is already legal in the Mojave Desert, and licenses have been granted. Games should begin in early 2013.
“Nevada has a monopoly on sports betting that we are challenging,” Lesniak said of another gaming issue facing New Jersey. Some in the Garden State want to legalize that activity as well, but the federal government could block those efforts.
“The last thing I want to see is [Nevada] have a monopoly on Internet gaming as well,” he added, but reinforced that he’s not trying to beat Nevada. He wants more parity.
According to Lesniak, New Jersey would already have real-money games running if Gov. Chris Christie didn’t veto a similar Internet gaming bill last year.
When asked whether the recovery from Hurricane Sandy could have an affect on efforts to legalize web gaming, Lesniak said that there’s an even greater need for it, but that the core need existed long before the storm. Atlantic City’s economy has been brutalized for a long time.
“I want to make it clear that if we don’t get Internet gaming and/or sports betting, Atlantic City will continue to be on the decline,” Lesniak said.
Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus
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