Atlantic City land casino operators have been suffering declining revenues for the past three-and-a-half years as a result of the recession and competition from neighbouring states, but they appear to have discarded a proposal by state lawmakers to legalise intrastate sports betting.
This week members of the Casino Association of New Jersey for the first time expressed strong opposition to current moves by state lawmakers to allow residents to wager over the Internet, whether by playing online poker or betting on sports events. This is despite the fact that the proposed legalisation confines the activity to within the state, conducted by land casino licensees.
Joseph A. Corbo Jr., the association’s president, wrote Tuesday to a southern New Jersey lawmaker to urge that he and his colleagues reject or delay a current sports-betting proposal, which seeks to change the state constitution so sports’ betting within the state is allowed.
The Association’s opposition comes as New Jersey lawmakers in an Assembly committee and in the full Senate this week discuss allowing a voter referendum on sports betting, reports the Atlantic City Press.
Corbo cited four specific complaints regarding the proposal, claiming that it expanded gaming outside Atlantic City and might violate the federal Wire Act. He wrote that the association did not want sports betting or other gaming legislation to progress in “a rushed manner that ignores the complex legal framework that exists for gambling laws in this country.”
“We urge the committee to vote no on this referendum, or at least not hold any vote on it, until further guidance can be given from the attorney general or other law enforcement,” Corbo wrote in a letter to Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who chairs the Assembly committee on Regulatory Oversight and Gaming.
Following receipt of the letter, Burzichelli decided Thursday to cancel a hearing in his committee on the sports-betting resolution. In the state Senate, lawmakers similarly failed to take a scheduled vote on the resolution, which is sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak, who has led the state’s effort to overturn the federal ban on sports betting.
His law firm, Weiner Lesniak, has filed suit in federal court to overturn the ban, arguing that it violates states’ constitutional rights.
The Atlantic City Press reports that the Casino Association of New Jersey’s objections extend not only to sports betting, but also to a bill to allow casinos to operate intrastate online gaming portals based out of Atlantic City. The bill would allow customers to play online versions of poker, blackjack and other games. Senators released that bill from committee on June 3 (see previous InfoPowa reports).
The Association argues that the sports-betting proposal, which would allow casinos to take sports bets online, amounts to Internet gambling. Both sports-betting and Internet-gaming proposals are illegal under the federal Wire Act, the Association claims, “because the Internet is an inherently interstate activity involving the wires. ... It is very clear that the federal government must take the lead on this issue, especially with respect to federal criminal laws.”
The Association also claims that the proposed new laws are a “gambling expansion beyond Atlantic City” and lawmakers should take no action to widen wagering in any way beyond casino gambling and horse betting at racetracks until an advisory committee to Gov. Chris Christie delivers its recommendations on boosting the state’s gaming, due June 30.
The Association is also concerned that betting on sports, in particular, contravenes the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association, a trade association for businesses and individuals who support online gaming, was mentioned in the Association’s submission. iMEGA has lobbied hard for both new gaming options to become law, but the Association claims that the body has no interests based in New Jersey.
Joe Brennan Jr., the CEO of iMEGA, told Atlantic City Press Thursday evening that iMEGA was classified as a 501c6 not-for-profit trade association and was incorporated in New Jersey.
“One of our prerogatives is the confidentiality of our membership,” he said. “We have been through the federal courts and asserted our right to keeping that confidentiality.”
Sen. Lesniak said the Casino Association is “shilling for Harrah’s, and their commercial interests, at the expense of the people of New Jersey” in insisting that the matter is a federal and not state issue.
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