Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of legal online casinos in New Jersey. Hypothetically, it could also mark the last year of the market.
The 2013 bill making online casino gaming and poker legal contains a clause that will cause it to expire ten years following its operative date. The Division of Gaming Enforcement’s regulations for online gambling came into effect in October 2013, and the first casinos launched the following month. Without additional legislative action, all iGaming sites would have to cease operations a little more than a year from now. (Sports betting, having been authorized by a separate bill in 2018, would be able to continue.)
Fortunately, the odds of that happening are close to nil. New Jersey is the US poster child for online gambling, and it’s hard to see the state abandoning such a successful endeavor at this point.
The last of the original 2013 bill’s sponsors, John J Burzichelli, left office earlier this year, having failed to win re-election in 2021. However, Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo has picked up the torch for online gambling in recent years.
Another Bill, Another Decade
Along with Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, Caputo introduced bill A2190 in February to extend the market for another ten years. Donald Guardian and Claire Swift are co-sponsors.
It’s about as straightforward as a bill can be, simply changing the number “10” to “20” in the following text:
The authorization to conduct games through the Internet as provided for in P.L.2013, c.27 shall expire 10 20 years following the operative date established pursuant to subsection a. of this 24 section, unless reauthorized by law.
Assuming the bill passes, that will push the expiration date for online gambling back to 2033.
A2190 has been with the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee since its introduction in February. That committee meets tomorrow, Sep 15, and the internet gaming extension is on the agenda.
The purpose of legislative committees is to review legislation before it’s brought before the whole assembly. Given the extreme simplicity of the bill and the fact that online gambling is already operating in the state, there isn’t very much that the committee might object to. Thus, NJ Gambling Sites expects the meeting to be primarily a formality and that the bill will advance without issue.
The Example Other States Follow
It’s hard to imagine many legislators voting against the extension. For one thing, lawmakers and the voting public tend to prefer the status quo. As hard as it’s proving for states like New York and Illinois to get online gambling expansion bills through, it would be even more challenging for New Jersey to put the toothpaste back in the tube at this point. Thousands of jobs and over $100 million in annual tax revenue depend on it.
Moreover, New Jersey has established itself as the model for how to conduct online gambling in the US. For instance, the idea of using land-based casinos to provide market access to online operators originated there. All other states which have legalized online casinos – and many which have legalized sports betting – have followed the same strategy. That has to be a point of pride for the legislature, especially for those assembly members who supported the original 2013 effort.
The COVID-19 pandemic also demonstrated the value of having online gambling in a state. Retail-only states saw their tax revenue from casinos plunge to zero during the shutdown, and even lottery ticket sales plummeted. However, online gambling surged, so the net loss to states like New Jersey was much more manageable.
And it’s still, despite the larger populations of Michigan and Pennsylvania, the largest online iGaming market in the US, with over $137 million in gross revenue for July.
What’s Next for A2190?
Assuming the bill gets the committee’s approval – and there’s no reason it shouldn’t – it will return to the floor for its second and third readings. In principle, assembly members could propose amendments, which is again unlikely because of the bill’s straightforward nature.
Eventually, the bill will come to a vote, assuming its sponsors believe there is sufficient support for it to pass. In the meantime, the New Jersey Senate should introduce a companion bill. If that passes too, the bills will be merged, and the Senate will get its vote. Assuming both halves of the legislature vote in favor of it, then the bill will proceed to Gov. Phil Murphy, who we would then expect to sign it into law.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Caputo has several other pieces of online gambling-related legislation on the go. Some of these are efforts that date back to the 2020-2021 legislative session:
- A400 would change the requirements for online operators to force them to obtain the same types of licenses as land-based casinos
- A402 would force online sites to feature the branding of their land-based partner, similar to what’s required in Michigan and Pennsylvania
- A405 would authorize racetracks to facilitate online casino gambling on their premises in partnership with an Atlantic City casino
- A1405 would cause funds in online gambling accounts to be considered abandoned money after three years without any activity
- A4397 would establish esports betting as its own form of gambling, distinct from general sports betting
All these bills are also currently with the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. A402 (the branding bill) and A3497 (the esports bill) are also on tomorrow’s agenda. The latter also already has a companion bill in the Senate, S2986, and therefore seems closer to passing than the others.