NJ Internet Betting Bill Has Money for Purses

Racing would get $20 million a year from Internet gambling at New Jersey casinos.

Legislation to authorize Internet gambling at Atlantic City casinos—and produce a dedicated amount for purses at racetracks—has been introduced in the New Jersey Senate.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Raymond Lesniak of northern New Jersey, was introduced earlier but failed to move forward. Lesniak said he modified the legislation after Republican Gov. Chris Christie raised concerns.

Lesniak said the bill serves several purposes: revenue for casinos, stability for horse racing, and tax receipts for state government. Christie, in his push to privatize horse racing in the state, has rejected any proposals that shift revenue to racing.

“We cannot turn our backs on the horse tracks and casinos which employ thousands of New Jerseyans and generate billions of dollars in economic activity each year,” Lesniak said in a statement. “We have to give this industry the tools and support to be relevant in the 21st century, and by authorizing intrastate online betting, we can provide access to a gaming product which other states have yet to capitalize on.

“We need to act now, before more of our state’s horse farms or casinos close their doors forever.”

Lesniak cited an analysis that projects up to $250 million in gross profit from Internet gambling for casinos and up to $55 million for the state. An Internet gambling license would require licensees to contribute to a horse racing fund, according to the bill.

The bill states that licensees “through an assessment determined by them, will raise $20 million annually in each of the first three state fiscal years commencing with the state fiscal year in which Internet wagering commences will be contributed to the New Jersey Racing Commission to be used to support the horse racing industry in this state through the augmentation of purses.”

Christie has come under fire from pro-racing lawmakers for his stance on horse racing. Earlier this year the governor vetoed a NJRC plan to pay $20 million in purses—the provision was contained in an earlier casino-related bill he approved—to the four tracks in the state.

“We have to start fighting for jobs and revenues here in New Jersey, and tell out-of-state gaming interests to pound salt,” Lesniak said. “We cannot kowtow to out-of-state special interests at every turn when New Jersey’s own economic well-being is at stake.

“Gov. Christie raised some concern with the original online gaming legislation, and I’m willing to work through those concerns, but it’s time to quit giving out-of-state gaming conglomerates with a vested interest in the status quo the ability to dictate policy in the Garden State."

The Internet gambling bill authorizes all games, including poker, that are played at casinos to be offered online to players that are present in New Jersey at the time bets are made. Licensees would have to verify that players are in fact located in state.