New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

AP Photo

Online Gaming Signed Into Law in New Jersey

Only Atlantic City casinos will have the right to offer games on the Internet.

Gov. Chris Christie Feb. 26 signed legislation legalizing Internet gambling through the Atlantic City casinos. The state legislature passed the bill just a few hours earlier.

The law includes changes sought by Christie, including a 10-year trial period for online gaming and a tax of 15% rather than 10%. There are no provisions in the law for horse racing in New Jersey to benefit from online gaming.

New Jersey became the third state in the nation to legalize gambling on the Internet. The lawmakers' votes and Christie's signature marked the largest expansion of legalized gambling in New Jersey since the first casino began operating in Atlantic City in 1978.

Nevada and Delaware have passed laws legalizing Internet betting, which also is going on offshore, untaxed, and unregulated.

"This was a critical decision, and one that I did not make lightly," Christie said. "But with the proper regulatory framework and safeguards that I insisted on including in the bill, I am confident that we are offering a responsible yet exciting option that will make Atlantic City more competitive while also bringing financial benefits to New Jersey as a whole."

The idea is to help the struggling casinos by attracting new gamblers who are not now visiting the casinos. The comps, like free hotel rooms, show tickets, meals or other freebies, would be accrued from online play, but would have to be redeemed in person at a casino, presumably enticing a player to spend more money while there.

Budget figures released by Christie envision contributions to the state Casino Revenue Fund soaring from $235 million this year to $436 million next year, largely due to an influx of online gambling revenue.

The bill will not take effect until the state Division of Gaming Enforcement sets a start date, sometime between three and nine months after the law is signed. Casino executives have estimated it could take six months to a year to get the system up and running.

Casino executives said final rules have to be approved by the gambling enforcement division, but they expect the state to require gamblers to have to appear in person at a casino to open their accounts and verify their age, identity, and other personal information. Payouts could be made remotely to a credit card or bank account when a player cashes out, if the state approves such an arrangement, the executives said.

The law allows gamblers in other states to place bets in New Jersey as long as regulators determine such activity is not prohibited by federal or state law. It even has provisions for allowing people in other countries to play, though federal law would have to be changed before that could happen.