A bill that would essentially open up the state's online gaming market to a worldwide customer base was unanimously advanced Monday by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.
"This could help make New Jersey the leader in online gaming, across the country and around the world," said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the bill's primary sponsor. "We could be the 'Silicon Valley' for high-tech gaming. We should take advantage of this dynamic opportunity for a business sector with enormous growth potential."
The legislation would allow the state Division of Gaming Enforcement to issue licenses to companies that offer online wagering to customers in foreign countries where regulatory agreements with New Jersey would be in-place.
Currently, New Jersey only offers intrastate Internet gaming within its borders. Nevada and Delaware are the only other states across the country to offer any form of online wagering at all.
Under the bill, companies would have to locate their infrastructure and operations at approved locations within the city limits of Atlantic City.
"We need to lay the foundation for intrastate and international gaming now," Lesniak said. "We shouldn't allow these opportunities to be exclusively overseas in other countries."
With other states on the verge of passing their own versions of Internet gaming, bill co-sponsor and state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Northfield) said the idea moving the legislation forward is to "make New Jersey a hub" and place Atlantic City and the state in a position to receive the "lion's share" of potential revenues and jobs.
"International Internet gaming is already taking place," Whelan said. "This gives Atlantic City the opportunity to build and expand on its casino business. We have the stability and security of a regulated marketplace, we have an educated workforce and a high-tech infrastructure. We can make New Jersey and Atlantic City a digital destination for internet gaming."
Testifying Monday before the panel in support of the bill was William Pascrell III, a lobbyist for the Princeton Public Affairs Group who represents Isle of Man-based PokerStars. The legislation cues in on the "relatively pedestrian rollout" online gaming has seen since it went live in New Jersey in November and helps to "take it to the next level," he said.
The bill will now head to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
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