New Jersey state Sen. Jennifer Beck proposed a bill, S 2946, that would allow racetrack casinos to offer what amounts to slot machines via the state’s internet gambling law. How will that happen? Racetracks will, according to the bill, form partnerships with Atlantic City casinos or their online gambling providers.
Industry experts see this as a way to introduce gambling to other parts of the state. It would mean not going through the turmoil of another referendum vote. New Jersey voters shot down an effort to expand casinos to North Jersey by a 3-to-1 margin.
What the bill calls for: Gambling at racetracks outside of A.C.
The text of the bill is pretty straightforward. Racetracks outside Atlantic City could host online gambling — via existing NJ gambling websites — under the legislation. The bills reads:
“A running or harness horse racetrack in this State may enter into an agreement with a casino located in Atlantic City, or such a casino’s Internet gaming affiliate, that allows the racetrack’s premises to be available as a venue at which the holder of an Internet gaming account may place wagers at casinos using the Internet.”
All agreements must be submitted to and approved by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement. That body will have oversight over all gambling matters in lieu of the New Jersey Racing Commission.
As some have pointed out, the language of this bill is an exact copy of A 4255, which was introduced in the House in December.
How the bill would work: Internet cafe-style gambling
Were this bill to pass, racinos would open up internet gambling rooms very similar to internet cafes. Patrons would sit down at computers connected to an Atlantic City casino or licensed operator’s internet gambling server. Wagers could be placed just like they would be in a casino.
The idea of gambling cafes is nothing new. Whereas existing gambling cafes are usually illegal, the facilities that would pop up through this bill would be legal. Both the casino operator and the racetrack are already licensed, paving the way (in theory) for a painless transition from gambling desert to gambling mecca.
What the bill actually says: The referendum results won’t stop us
State residents have never warmed to the idea of allowing slots or table games outside of Atlantic City in NJ gambling history. While the latest referendum is the most recent proof of the state’s gambling regionalism, there have been other ballot measures dating back to the 1970s that have also failed.
The introduction of Beck’s bill is an indication that lawmakers have had enough of the push for referendums and are looking for more creative ways to bring gambling revenue to other parts of the state.
Are the state’s politicians ready for this sort of maneuvering? Apparently not. A December article from Politico indicates lawmakers had a hard time reading between the lines.
“(The) intent is not what we thought when we came here,” said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo in reference to the bill’s committee hearing. “And now that you read into the bill and heard the testimony, there’s something up here. Something doesn’t smell right.”