Senate Committee Approves New Jersey Online Gambling

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By Juliet Fletcherstaff Writer, Press of Atlantic City

TRENTON - State senators took the first step toward allowingInternet-based gaming in New Jersey today, releasing a bill fromcommittee that would allow casinos to build online portals forpoker, blackjack and many other games.  

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

Under the bill, the state would allow an intra-state onlinegambling network, relying on high-tech online software to allowcustomers within New Jersey's borders to access the casino-runonline portals.  

Senators on the committee on state government, wagering, tourismand historic preservation, approved the bill by 3 votes to 1.  

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, has arguedfederal law has given New Jersey a window to try an intra-stateapproach to developing an online-gaming business model.  

Federal laws forbid gambling without a valid casino license,which can only be obtained in states that have legalized gamblingin brick-and-mortar gambling halls.  

In 2006, U.S banks were ordered to block their credit and debitcards from carrying payments to online gambling companies, leavingwould-be players without a way to pay. But that ban expired June 1,after many delays.  

New Jersey's proposed business model would use existinglicensees -- Atlantic City casinos -- and would be regulated toprevent underage and out-of-state players.  

Representatives of the Interactive Media Entertainment andGaming Association, which supports the proposal, said the billcould bring between $210 million and $250 million in annual grossgaming yield to casinos and between $47 million and $55 million innew state revenues. Still greater revenues could be created if NewJersey succeeds in attracting Internet gaming companies toheadquarter 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 andworkforce available around Atlantic City to create centers oftechnical support and data storage to the new industry, all withinreach of Wall Street investment firms, give the city a strategicadvantage over other states, he said.  

"New Jersey will be able to position itself as the national andpotential global capital of the next gaming industry," headded.  

But the bill came in for criticism from horse-racing advocates,as senators removed a provision to allow "gaming rooms" atracetrack venues where customers could get online to gamble.  

"What is the difference between something like that, and if Ijust take my laptop to the track, and start playing," arguedBarbara DeMarco, a spokeperson for the Thoroughbred Horsemen'sAssociation of New Jersey.  

If the bill becomes law, New Jersey could beat California andFlorida, two states which are trying to kickstart Internetgaming          

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