Still No Answers On Why State Lawmakers Changed NJ Online Casinos Extension

Written By David Danzis on June 29, 2023
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UPDATE: The Associated Press and POLITICO NJ reported that the state Assembly Budget Committee amended the bill for a second time Wednesday evening, authorizing a five-year extension of legal online gaming. The amended text is now posted on the state’s website.

The Senate version of the bill was amended Thursday to authorize a five-year extension. Two Senate committees had already approved a 10-year extension before the Assembly’s amendment.

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A group of Trenton lawmakers threw Atlantic City casinos and industry watchers for a loop Tuesday when they inexplicably amended a noncontroversial bill to allow New Jersey online gambling for another decade.

Without warning or explanation, the state Assembly Budget Committee changed the proposal for a 10-year extension of the thriving NJ online casinos industry to a mere two years. Then, the committee voted in favor of the amended bill by a vote of 14-1.

A Senate version of the bill authorizing a 10-year online gaming extension has already cleared multiple committees. The Senate and Assembly versions must match before a full vote on proposed legislation.

The Assembly bill, A2190, was one of more than 50 pieces of legislation voted on Tuesday by the Budget Committee on a day when both legislative chambers were to be voting on the state’s annual budget. Neither chamber voted on the state budget Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, the reasoning behind the change to the NJ online gambling bill was still unclear.

What Trenton makes (in the shadows) the rest of NJ just swallows

Assemb. Hal Wirths, a Republican lawmaker from Sussex County and former state labor commissioner, was among the 14 Budget Committee members who voted “yes.” But Wirths acknowledged Wednesday that neither he nor his budget colleagues were given any details as to why the bill was being amended.

“I have no idea, to be honest with you,” Wirths told PlayNJ about why the bill was altered.

“They were amending things so quickly yesterday (Tuesday) on the fly with no explanation. No one gave me any reason.”

The rapid voting session was eventually slowed down later in the day at the behest of Wirths and other Republicans. But A2190 had already been approved by the committee.

Atlantic City casinos would like an explanation, as well

Atlantic City casinos are looking for answers as well. Following Tuesday’s vote, Mark Giannantonio, president/CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, told the Associated Press:

“The reauthorization of the internet gaming bill for 10 years is vital to the continued success of the gaming industry in New Jersey and the programs that are supported by the taxes collected. This will also provide investor confidence in the New Jersey internet gaming industry.”

Since launching in 2013, online casinos in NJ have generated over $6.2 billion in NJ online gambling revenue, resulting in more than $925 million in state tax revenue. The top three revenue-generating periods in the history of NJ online casinos occurred within the past three months, most recently over $161 million in May.

The Office of Legislative Services, a non-partisan board tasked with reviewing proposed bills, is projecting a 5% growth rate in gross internet gaming revenues over the next two years. The OLS expects an estimated $305 million and $320 million in tax revenues and various fees from legal online gambling (excluding sports betting) over the next two fiscal years.

South Jersey ‘extremely disappointed’ and looking for answers about future of NJ online casinos

Three Atlantic City state lawmakers — Sen. Vince Polistina, Assemb. Don Guardian and Assemb. Claire Swift — are sponsors of the respective bills to extend online gambling in NJ until 2033. PlayNJ reached out to Polistina and Guardian on Wednesday but still awaits comment.

The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey issued a scathing press release Tuesday evening in response to the Assembly Budget Committee’s vote and lack of transparency. The CCSNJ said it was “extremely disappointed” in the Assembly’s “drastic” amendment and implored the lower chamber to reconsider.

“It is undeniable that online betting has been a boon for New Jersey, as well as the state’s casinos. In order for his level of success and revenue growth to continue, the industry needs stability, which is an impossibility if the state has the ability to withdraw its operating authorization on a two-year basis.”

The current law authorizing legal internet gambling in NJ is set to expire in November.

Photo by PlayNJ
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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. David lives in Atlantic County, NJ with his wife and two children.

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