For better or for worse, online gambling is coming to New Jersey.
In late February, Chris Christie officially signed the law legalizing internet gambling in Atlantic City.
Initially the bill was vetoed by the Governor because of issues surrounding transparency and taxes. Lawmakers adjust the text and the amended bill is passed by a large majority in the legislature and gets Christie’s stamp of approval .
Here are the basics of billing:
– Casinos located in Atlantic City will be able to apply for a license to offer online gambling. Only twelve Atlantic City official casinos are eligible for a license. No other organization can offer internet gambling, and face heavy fines if you do. All facilities used for the operation of internet gambling must be located within city limits; only bets accepted by servers in Atlantic City are valid.
– Players must be “physically present” in New Jersey to place bets. In the future, New Jersey may develop agreements with other states that legalize internet gambling to allow out-of-state gambling. Casino equipment must verify the player’s location before accepting bets.
– Any game available to play at the casino can be played online. (By comparison, Nevada only allows poker.) Until now, sports betting would not be protected by this law, even though the state of New Jersey is trying to fight a federal law that prohibits legalizing sports betting.
– The bill has all kinds of provisions to prevent gambling addiction, such as requiring a conspicuous display of the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline number, a way to set maximum bets and losses over a period of time, and tracking player losses to identify and limit users who may exhibit behavior addictive gambling.
– Income from online gambling will be taxed 15%. Christie’s administration stated that about $180 million in state revenue would be generated from this tax, but some analysts think this amount is too much.
The official rules, which are to be made by the Division of Gaming Enforcement Bill, were released on June 3, and are subject to a “public comment period” until August 2 before being finalized. These rules include details such as how casinos obtain licenses and appropriate procedures for maintaining network security at gambling sites.
So, does online gambling really benefit the country?
Revenue from Atlantic City casinos has declined over the past seven years, and online gambling could save failing casinos. Since 2006, casino revenue has fallen from 5.2 billion to about $3 billion. Online gambling can be a $500 million to $1 billion industry in New Jersey, which may be enough to keep struggling casinos afloat and save jobs in Atlantic City. In addition, although tax revenue estimates are ubiquitous, there is the potential for online gambling to be a very valuable source of money for the state. Casinos also have to pay taxes to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which will provide further assistance to troubled casinos in Atlantic City.
For players, low overhead means better prizes and more opportunities to play. Casinos can incentivize players with free “chips” that have minimal cost to them, but give players more opportunities to play and win. The convenience of online gambling allows players to play more with less travel.
One of the goals of the bill should be to attract more people to visit physical casinos, but it’s hard to say whether online gambling will actually lead to this outcome. One could speculate it could even lead to fewer people going to casinos (However, this seems unlikely; the social element and free drinks are missing in online gambling. Also, research shows that, with poker at least, internet gaming doesn’t detract from casino gaming.) for the host casino will be allowed on online gambling sites, which may encourage people to visit the casino but may also annoy the players.
Online gambling can be very detrimental to people who have a gambling addiction, or even cause people to develop it, causing financial and moral problems. Even with all the precautionary measures required by the bill, it would definitely be much more difficult to stop compulsive gamblers if they could place bets anywhere with an internet connection.
Regardless, it will be a long time before the casinos can actually start their online gambling offerings. Regulations need to be finalized and casinos need to apply for a license and develop their gambling websites. This means casinos will not enjoy this new source of revenue during the summer of 2013, which could be Atlantic City’s toughest season after recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
New Jersey has placed the stakes, but only time will tell if gambling is online.