Lawmakers in New Jersey are making significant strides in passing a bipartisan bill that seeks to extend the legality of online casinos for an additional 10 years.
The current law, enacted in 2013, allowed online casino gambling in New Jersey but on a temporary, 10-year basis. With the November deadline for renewal looming, legislators are taking proactive measures to secure the future of the thriving industry. Last week, a key state Assembly committee approved the bill, and it is now scheduled to be reviewed by members of the Senate’s budget committee, with potential final consideration by Governor Phil Murphy later this month.
Online casino gambling has become a crucial lifeline for the Atlantic City casino industry, especially during the challenging times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters of the bill argue that the convenience and accessibility of online gambling have provided a much-needed boost to the industry’s revenue, helping to sustain operations even during economic shutdowns. Hilary Chebra, Manager of Government Relations for the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, emphasized the positive impact of online gambling on the region, particularly in South Jersey.
In addition to its economic benefits, concerns have been raised regarding the potential increase in gambling addiction associated with online platforms. Critics argue that the ease of access to online gambling, including wagering on sports events, may contribute to addictive behavior.
To address these concerns, a separate bill is also making progress in the Legislature. The proposed bill calls for the establishment of a “diversion court” pilot program that aims to improve treatment for individuals diagnosed with gambling addiction who have committed crimes related to their condition. The program would require participants to pay restitution and be supervised by qualified mental health professionals.
The original law legalizing online casino gambling in New Jersey was enacted in 2013 under the administration of former Governor Chris Christie. At the time, the Atlantic City casino industry was grappling with the aftermath of the Great Recession and faced new competition from neighboring states. The current law mandates that online betting sites operate in partnership with brick-and-mortar casinos based in Atlantic City.
To ensure uninterrupted online casino gambling in New Jersey beyond the November 2023 deadline, the renewal legislation must be approved. The bill aims to extend the legality of online casino gambling for another 10 years, offering stability and certainty to the industry. It maintains the requirement for partnerships between online platforms and Atlantic City casinos.
The tax revenue generated from online casino gambling has been a significant contributor to the state’s finances. Over the years, it has evolved into a substantial source of annual tax collections, surpassing $250 million. The funds are allocated to the Casino Revenue Fund, supporting various initiatives and projects.
Recent data from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement indicates a modest increase in net revenues for the nine casinos during the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in the previous year. State budget documents project further growth in Casino Revenue Fund collections, with internet gambling expected to contribute around $287.7 million during the 2024 fiscal year.
As the bill progresses through the Legislature, stakeholders aim to strike a balance between the economic benefits of online casino gambling and addressing concerns related to addiction.