First US state to allow internet gambling?

Is this the first step toward regulated online gambling in a US state?

In what could prove to be an important breakthrough in US intrastate online gambling regulation, New Jersey state senators Thursday released a bill from committee that would allow casinos to build online websites for poker,blackjack and other games.

Members of the Internet-gaming business lobby hailed the legislation as a significant step forward for New
Jersey to establish itself as the first state to allow full Internet gaming within its state jurisdiction.

The day started with the state’s Senate Wagering and Tourism committee hearing testimony on a bill that would allow online betting on poker and casino games. Legislators were told that allowing embattled Atlantic City land casino operators to create online sites would provide at least $200 million in additional state revenue and bring an
estimated 1 500 high-tech jobs to south Jersey.

However, opponents, mainly from the horse racing industry which already has federal exemptions to operate online wagering, said that New Jersey's battered horse racing industry would take another hit if forced to compete with online wagering from the casinos.

Horseracing supporters were also less than pleased when senators removed a provision to allow "gaming rooms" at racetrack venues where customers could get online to gamble.

Cash strapped US states – especially Florida and California - are showing growing interest in the possibilities of regulated internet gambling, citing the autonomy of individual states that allows them to decide on intrastate

Under the bill discussed at the hearing, New Jersey would allow an intrastate online gambling network, relying on high-tech online software to allow customers within New Jersey's borders to access the land casino-run online websites.

At the close of the hearing, Senators on the committee approved the bill by 3 votes to 1.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Senator Ray Lesniak, argues that federal law has given New Jersey a window to try an intrastate approach to developing an online-gaming business model.

Representatives of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, which supports the proposal, said the bill could bring between $210 million and $250 million in annual gross gaming yield to casinos and
between $47 million and $55 million in new state revenues. Still greater revenues could be created if New
Jersey succeeds in attracting Internet gaming companies to headquarter in the state.

"The state would benefit by being a 'first mover,'" said iMega chairman Joe Brennan Jr. The existing casino industry, combined with the space and workforce available around Atlantic City to create centers of technical support and data storage to the new industry, all within reach of Wall Street investment firms, give the city a strategic advantage over other states, he pointed out.

"New Jersey will be able to position itself as the national and potential global capital of the next gaming industry," he added.

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