Calls for New Jersey summit regarding internet gambling

A call for dialogue as land casino operators oppose new legislation.

Attempts to legalise intrastate online gambling in the state of New Jersey (see previous InfoPowa reports) entered a new phase this week as Democratic Party lawmakers called for a gaming summit to reconcile competing proposals to put sports and Internet betting to a public vote in a referendum this fall.

Last week land casino operators in the state were unequivocal in expressing their opposition to a proposed intrastate solution to the online gambling issue.

The Atlantic City Press reports that the call for a summit and dialogue comes 14 days before the deadline for release of a report by an advisory committee appointed by Governor Chris Christie to make recommendations aimed at reviving gambling industries in the state, including racetracks.

Different versions of sports and online gambling legislative bills have begun moving through the Senate and Assembly, the newspaper reports, noting that the Casino Association of New Jersey has come out against proposed Internet gambling bills. The debate is further complicated by racetracks seeking a piece of new gambling initiatives as well as slot machines at the tracks.

"Right now, all the interests are at each other's throats while their respective industries are dying a slow death," state Senator Raymond Lesniak, told the newspaper.

"They don't realize, or don't want to realize, they're killing each other. It's time for the Legislature and the governor to adopt a policy based on maximizing revenues from gaming and saving our dying tourist attractions," he added.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee approved a bill Thursday to ask state voters in a referendum whether to legalise sports betting. A provision to allow sports betting over the internet as removed prior to the committee vote.

Questions to be included in the public referendum would include the acceptability of sports betting should a federal ban on the practice in most states be lifted; whether sports betting should be allowed over the Internet in New Jersey; whether the Atlantic City licensed land casinos should run online gambling sites, and what types of expanded gambling could be allowed at New Jersey racetracks.

However, in the state Senate, a sports betting resolution that would include Internet sports bets has been approved in committee. Author Senator Lesniak gave an assurance that he would hold back his bill until a summit has discussed the issues and generated a new proposal.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, chairman of the Assembly gaming panel, also said he was open to a new proposal, and joined in the call for a summit debate and discussion.

"Revenues from sports betting and Internet gaming have to be maximized and utilized to make Atlantic City a resort destination, not just a casino attraction, and take advantage of lucrative markets being taken away by New York, Pennsylvania, Las Vegas and offshore Internet gaming sites," Lesniak wrote in a statement.

"Atlantic City is dying. The Meadowlands is dying. Our racetracks are dying. We have time to get this right and craft a constitutional amendment that will maximize revenues for the state and for our tourist destinations."

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