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EDITORIAL: Online gaming fight is one A.C. has to win

Just like a gambling addict pouring his life savings into a slot machine, Atlantic City just cannot get a break.

The talk in Congress now is turning toward outlawing online gaming — seen just a few months ago as the latest in a long line of supposed saviors for the flagging city — and the bills being discussed wouldn't allow the three states currently permitting the practice to be grandfathered in.

This is really bad news because, if nothing else, online gaming has companies spending all kinds of money on advertising and creating the technical infrastructure to support it. And on top of that, come next month, the operators will be required to have those technical jobs based in the Garden State, which could help put a dent in the state's persistent unemployment numbers. Online gaming was never going to be the force pundits expected — the governor originally expected it to bring in more than $150 million in its first year — but gaming data have shown it's having at least some impact in the early stages.

But an ominous sign for Atlantic City is the Washington involvement of an influential critic — Sands chief Sheldon Adelson, who has been on a well-publicized crusade against Internet gaming. Bet that made for some awkward moments in conversation when Adelson spoke with Chris Christie at the Republican Jewish Coalition event in late March.

Speaking of Christie and the casinos getting a bad name, the news that New Jersey's taxpayers funded the long-running court fight over sports gambling to the tune of more than $3 million is almost as reprehensible as Christie spending more than $1 million to have his lawyers decide he had nothing to do with the George Washington Bridge closure. Of course, this wouldn't be as much of a problem if the state budget shortfall wasn't more than $500 million through July 2015.

The fact that casinos wouldn't ante up for that fight is going to make them unpopular when the fight for online gaming ramps up (again). That's a shame because it's a practice that can seriously help state coffers, and the argument against it is pretty flimsy. All told, another sad day for Atlantic City.

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