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New Jersey Assembly Tells Trump Administration To Keep Hands Off Online Poker

Assembly Joint Resolution 'Urges' Opposition To I-Gaming Ban

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New Jersey lawmakers want the state to keep its rapidly growing online gambling industry, and they are concerned about possible prohibition from far-right Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

On June 8, Garden State Assemblymembers voted 75-0-1 in favor of “urging” the Trump Administration and Congress “to oppose measures and actions which would prohibit states from authorizing and conducting internet gaming.”

That’s in reference to the legislation called RAWA (Restoration of America’s Wire Act), which has been hovering over Capitol Hill like a dark cloud for several years. The legislation is backed by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who thinks online gaming hurts his casino empire. Other casino operators have embraced the games because they are popular with younger customers.

Of course, there’s no guarantee Sessions will care about the New Jersey Assembly Joint Resolution No. 137, but it could catch the eye of Trump himself, who was once a casino owner in Atlantic City. His friend and adviser Carl Icahn has interests there, and Trump is close with Gov. Chris Christie, who signed the online gaming bill in 2013.

However, fears were raised in April when it was uncovered that Adelson donated $5 million to Trump’s inauguration. The speculation was that it could raise the likelihood of a ban.

Online gambling has helped Atlantic City reverse its downward spiral. The Atlantic City casino industry won $1.073 billion from gamblers through the first five months of 2017, an increase of 3.9 percent compared to the same period last year. Internet gaming accounted for $101.1 million of the total, an increase of 29 percent year-over-year.

Gross operating profits for the casinos were $139.2 million during the first quarter of this year, which was an increase of 30.4 percent compared to the same period in 2016.

Should RAWA become law, or should Sessions reverse the 2011 legal opinion from the Obama Department of Justice that allowed for states to OK online gambling within their respective borders, New Jersey would almost surely sue the federal government.

The resolution states: “A federal prohibition against internet gaming would directly and negatively impact New Jersey by dismantling the investments that the state and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate internet gaming, taking away the economic and employment opportunities already realized by the state and its residents, and foreclosing the future potential of internet gaming to generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos.”