Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that will allow casinos in Atlantic City to set up online gaming and gambling websites on Tuesday February 26. The state legislature has been discussing the possibilities of online gambling for at least two years. Christie vetoed the bill back in 2011 when it was newer and more risky. He signed the bill last week after sending a revised version back with some suggestions and requirements that he felt would make the bill more successful.
So what does this new bill mean for New Jersey? Or more importantly, what does it mean for Atlantic City?
New Jersey, according to an article by CBC News, is the third state to legalize online gambling. Only Nevada and Delaware have passed a similar bill.
“I believe that [the gambling law] is an opportunity to bring additional revenue to New Jersey,” said Professor Amy Handlin, who teaches Marketing and International Business and also serves as an Assemblywoman for District 13. “Many people enjoy the Atlantic City gaming experience, the excitement of playing at the tables and the slot machines. Other people prefer not to drive the 90 miles or so, and may prefer to play from the confines of their home,” Handlin said.
As of right now, the online gaming sites pertain only to residents in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. Meaning that in order to place a bet online and partake in the game, you have to be in New Jersey.
A lawyer, Joe Goldstein, who represented the online gaming companies in the negotiations, said in an interview that he would be surprised if more states did not pass similar bills in the near future because the more people involved in the game, the better the stakes offered.
Kimberly Kravitz, senior communication major with a minor in information technology, explained how casinos might go about setting up online gambling.
“Online gambling is coming from the source of the casino, so in other words, you would need to log in as a Total Rewards
Member, or whichever name they give to members that stay at the casino, and they would have your information already in their system. No one under 21 would be given a ‘Total Rewards Card’ because they need identification from you to let you sign out a card. Internet gambling will most likely take the same approach,” Kravitz said.
Lawmakers are hoping that the online gaming law will draw attention back to Atlantic City. With other states nearby offering casinos and the recession still fresh in everyone’s mind, Atlantic City felt the economic pressure.
Democrat Raymond Lesniak supported the bill because he believed that online gambling gives Atlantic City and New Jersey a competing edge. In the future, participants will be able to gamble online with casinos in Delaware or Nevada, and vice versa. Other states are pursuing online gambling laws and as they are passed, New Jersey has the option of allowing outside bets.
The New Jersey Treasury expects online gambling to increase the revenue from casinos by at least $200 million in the 2014 fiscal year. Security analysts with Wells Fargo went so far as to say that the revenue brought in from online gambling could bring in as much as $850 million in the coming years and that’s taking into account, all the work that needs to be done to rebuild the state from Super Storm Sandy according to The Star Ledger.
So, why was Governor Christie so hesitant to sign this bill?
The answer lies in the details. Governor Christie was concerned that the financial benefits would not out-weigh any downsides this new law could bring to the state. He vetoed the bill because he was not convinced that lawmakers had thought out every possible outcome. In order for Governor Christie to sign off on the bill, lawmakers had to take his requests under advisement. They added every single one. One of those requests was that programs that help treat gambling addictions receive better funding according to The Star Ledger.
Dr. Alan Cavaiola of the Department of Psychological Counseling said, “Pathological gambling is definitely on the rise across the nation, not just in New Jersey. So this new law stands to have a definite impact on New Jersey residents.”
Cavailoa continued, “While I’m against the moral grounds, from a psychological perspective, gambling prevention efforts are better directed towards decreasing desirability rather than increasing access. We see that with drugs and alcohol; if people want to get it, they will find a way to do so.”
“I do think addiction may increase with this new law,” said Roshni Patel, a senior psychology student. “Online gambling just allows people to get a quick fix for their addiction. Internet access is literally at everyone’s fingertips these days, making it that much easier for addicts to get a hold of their source of addiction. This new law doesn’t directly affect me, since I don’t gamble, but taking a psych perspective, I feel it is a bad move on the part of lawmakers. They are only fueling addictions.”
The other requirement that Governor Christie asked for was an end to the law. In ten years, the online gambling law will expire and lawmakers will have to vote on it again.
Handlin said, “This is called the ‘sunset clause.’ If necessary, during this ten year period, lawmakers can take action to correct any unintended consequences the legislation may have or create. After the bill sunsets, it is possible that new legislation will pass that will extend internet gambling.”
As of right now, the new online gambling law is in its infancy. Permits and licenses need to be issued to casinos and online companies to create the sites and put safeguards in place that will protect the gambler from fraud and illegal practices. The finer details need to be hammered out and then there will be months of testing and trials. So, when will these sites be up and running? According to The Star Ledger, the hope is this fall.
Kravitz said that she thought the fall was a reasonable deadline. “I think that ultimately one team of information technology specialists will create a basic template for various games online and then it will most likely be spread amongst every casino. Once a basic form is created for games, scoring and your imaginary money, then it will be just a matter of each casino’s rep to make room for it on their website.”
Let the games begin.
IMAGE TAKEN from inlandpolitics.com