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New Jersey Advances Internet Casino Bill

June 8, 2010 (CAP News Wire) – In the race to be the first state to legalize and regulate online gambling, New Jersey may have taken the lead, as state senators passed a bill that would allow state casinos “to build online portals for poker, blackjack and many other games,” according to the Press of Atlantic City.

“Members of the Internet-gaming business lobby hailed the legislation as a significant step forward for New Jersey to establish itself as the first state to allow full Internet gaming within its state jurisdiction,” the article added, referring to the current competition against California to set the first intrastate iGaming laws in the U.S.

Sponsored by Senator Raymond Lesniak (of online gambling Facebook fame), the bill would allow online gambling from licensed casinos, which would all be from existing Atlantic City companies. And that would most likely excluding international online gambling brands that currently make up huge amounts of the industry market share.

Even so, iMEGA supports the bill, which it says “could bring between $210 million and $250 million in annual gross gaming yield to casinos and between $47 million and $55 million in new state revenues.”

iMEGA also indecated that the state could make even more money if it attracted out-of-state Internet casinos to move their headquarters to the Garden State.

And that’s the advantage of being the first state to make online gambling laws — it would be most likely to receive an influx of companies moving there to set up legal online gambling networks, which it could then possibly spread to a nationwide level in the coming years as other states adopt New Jersey’s laws. Many anticipate that would happen.

“New Jersey will be able to position itself as the national and potential global capital of the next gaming industry,” iMega chairman Joe Brennan Jr was quoted in the article.

Harrah’s has already come out against the proposal. The state’s powerful horse-racing interests are also largely opposed, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Still, “the state would … reap 20 percent of the new revenue in taxes,” states New Jersey’s Daily Record. That may be incentive enough to fast-track the bill into law, especially considering that the state’s casino fortunes over the past decade have “slid about 13 percent, as more than a third of Atlantic City’s casinos declared bankruptcy,” according to Newsweek.

This is a serious issue; some Las Vegas insiders are extremely concerned about the economic implications if Nevada gets left behind in the anticipated online gambling boom, as points out here.

However, it’s important to note that the bill has only been approved by a senate subcommittee; it must now face a vote from the full senate and then possibly undergo approval from the New Jersey’s House of Representatives, as well.

So, don’t count California out of this race just yet — it’s marked its own pending iGaming legislation as “urgent”. Updates on that in tomorrow’s CAP News.