Five Years Later, NJ Online Gambling Bill Signed By Chris Christie Is Considered A Success

As the five-year anniversary nears, we look back at the successes for NJ’s online gambling bill after it was signed into law by then-Gov. Chris Christie.

It’s not a state holiday. There won’t be a parade down the streets of Atlantic City. However, there may be a few state lawmakers and casino industry insiders raising a glass next month to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the day then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed the state’s online gambling bill into law.

On Feb. 26, 2013, a bill permitting internet gambling in the state was approved by the New Jersey Legislature. It was signed into law by Christie later that day. It took almost nine months before legal and regulated online gambling actually launched in New Jersey.

However, it has been a tremendous and growing success ever since.

That’s one successful NJ online gambling bill

In fact, New Jersey online gambling sites posted $245.6 million in online gambling revenues in 2017. That represents an almost 25 percent increase from the record-breaking $196.7 million in online gambling revenues posted in 2016.

Actually, the numbers have gone up more than 20 percent every year since the state launched legal and regulated online gambling. NJ online gambling revenues have doubled since the first full year of operations in 2014. The sites posted $122.9 million in online gambling revenue in 2014.

That’s certainly something the state’s successful online casino and online poker operators might want to celebrate. However, state lawmakers should be popping bottles alongside them as well.

By May 2017, the amount of taxes the state had collected from online gambling operators since launch had surpassed $100 million. By the end of the year that number was more than $125 million and counting.

What could have been for NJ online casinos

Everybody’s winning, and the anniversary of the day the state’s online gambling bill was signed into law is as good a day as any to celebrate it. Although, it wasn’t originally supposed to be Feb. 26. In fact, it could have been March 3 two years earlier.

New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill that would have made the state the first in the nation to legalize internet gambling in early 2011. However, instead of signing the bill into law on March 3, 2011, Christie vetoed it.

Apparently, Christie feared the bill didn’t do enough to prevent opportunistic entrepreneurs from setting up internet cafes around the state that could operate as makeshift casinos.

It also could have been Feb. 7. New Jersey legislators fixed the internet cafe issue and passed a new online gambling bill in early 2013. However, instead of signing this bill into law on Feb. 7, 2013, Christie vetoed it again. This time he said he wanted the tax rate raised from 10 percent to 15 percent before he would sign.

The change was made and the bill became law on Feb. 26, 2013.

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Coincidentally, Feb. 26 was also rock-and-roll legend Fats Domino’s birthday. The man behind 1950s hits such as “I’m Walkin’,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” and “Blueberry Hill” played countless shows on the Jersey shore before his death in 2017.

Feb. 26 was also the birth date of country music legend Johnny Cash. With his memorable twang on country classics such as “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” Cash played a number of Atlantic City casinos over the years. He was also part owner of an Asbury Park hotel and spent considerable time in the small seaside city before his death in 2003.

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Briefs In New Jersey’s Supreme Court Betting Case Call PASPA Unconstitutional

The New Jersey sports betting case is moving ahead, with several court briefs filed regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

It may seem like not much is happening in the state of New Jersey’s Supreme Court challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sport Protection Act (PASPA).

The news may be few and far between, but the behind-the-scenes action is bustling, especially last week when the major parties in the case hit the deadline for filing briefs.

New Jersey brief calls law “manifestly unconstitutional”

Several parties filed briefs before the Aug. 29 deadline. One came in under Gov. Chris Christie’s name, as he is representing the state in this case. The crux of Christie’s argument is that PASPA violates the 10th Amendment, which assures states’ rights. As New Jersey argues, this law flies in the face of the amendment with its overreach regarding sports betting.

From the brief:

One of the “essential postulates” derived from the “structure of the Constitution,” is that “state legislatures are not subject to federal direction.” … PASPA compels States to regulate—indeed, prohibit—sports wagering and therefore exceeds Congress’s authority…And later: Under our Constitution, if Congress wishes for sports wagering to be illegal, it must make the activity unlawful itself. It cannot compel States to do so.

In 2011, residents of New Jersey approved of bringing sports betting to the state via voter referendum. The following year, Christie signed a bill into law. The sports leagues took the state to court, and the court sided with the leagues.

As the brief lays out, New Jersey effectively did not have the ability to make laws in its own state without the federal government interfering. As such, the state hopes SCOTUS will strike down the entirety of PASPA.

Briefs from other pro-betting parties in the case tow a similar line.

DFS caught in the crossfire

When talking about the problems PASPA creates, inevitably daily fantasy sports (DFS) came up too. In the brief filed on behalf of co-plaintiff the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA), the group takes direct aim at the perceved unfair treatment the fantasy industry receives.

More specifically, NJTHA points out how the major sports leagues more than turn a blind eye to fantasy. In fact, many leagues have financial partnerships with DFS operators.

An excerpt from the NJTHA brief:

The Leagues’ full-throated endorsement of Fantasy and DFS demonstrates the pernicious consequences that can follow when Congress tries to avoid political accountability for its actions by granting discretionary enforcement powers to private persons who may have self-interests that are at odds with a statute’s, such as PASPA’s, purposes.

The Leagues, thus, hypocritically stand before this Court profiting from an activity that 41 PASPA expressly prohibits while at the same time using PASPA to stop the NJTHA from operating a sports betting venue at Monmouth Park that has the potential to save jobs, save the New Jersey equine industry, and preserve open spaces.

Christie recently signed a fantasy sports bill into law, so it is not like the end goal is to bring DFS down. Rather, the case is about putting DFS on the same footing as sports betting, where the Garden State thinks it belongs. Now it is a matter of getting five Supreme Court Justices on its side.

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New Jersey Gets On Fantasy Sports Bandwagon As Christie Signs New Law

New Jersey became the latest state to legalize and regulate the daily fantasy sports industry, including the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel.

New Jersey became the latest state to legalize and regulate the daily fantasy sports industry, including the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel.

NJ on daily fantasy sports

Gov. Chris Christie announced that he signed a fantasy sports bill last week. It was passed by the NJ legislature in July.

Of course, DFS sites already operated in the state. That includes FastPick, a fantasy-style game that launched this summer at Resorts in Atlantic City. But this law gives all DFS operators legal clarity — apart from the state’s gaming laws — and puts them under a regulatory environment that is not too burdensome.

The new law taxes operators at a rate of 10.5 percent of gross revenue in the state. Beyond that, it subjects DFS sites and operators to regulations on a number of issues, including consumer protection.

Interestingly, the state’s Department of Gaming Enforcement is not in charge of enforcing and implementing the new law. That falls to the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety.

The only seemingly difficult thing for DFS sites to comply with is the requirement to have a server located in AC.

DraftKings and FanDuel are happy

The new law is a legislative victory for the two biggest companies in the DFS space. Here’s some of a statement offered up by a spokesperson for DraftKings and FanDuel (the two companies work together on lobbying for new laws):

By taking this action, New Jersey is now the sixteenth state to enact a law protecting fantasy sports fans and guaranteeing their right to play the games they love, while establishing rules to protect consumers as the industry grows and ensure the continued integrity of fantasy sports contests.

The law establishes multiple layers of oversight, placing New Jersey at the forefront of consumer protection nationally, and creating a new source of tax revenue with major potential for growth in the state. On behalf of nearly 1.5 million fantasy sports fans in New Jersey, we want to thank Governor Christie and the legislature … for coming together on this bipartisan legislation.

Most other daily fantasy sports operators are also expected to set up shop in New Jersey.

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Regulating daily fantasy is a trend

Fifteen other states had previously passed laws to deal with paid-entry fantasy sports, an industry that had seen tremendous growth in recent years.

Most of those laws are in much the same vein as New Jersey’s, requiring registration with the state, setting up basic regulations along with a taxation and/or licensing fee structure.

New Jersey is waiting for the sports betting prize

Casinos and racetracks can offer legal fantasy sports under the law, but it’s not clear if anyone else will join Resorts in doing so.

In reality, they are hoping New Jersey wins its sports betting case in the US Supreme Court. If victorious, gaming facilities in the state could move forward with sports gambling. DFS represents a relatively small opportunity when viewed alongside the possibility of legal sports betting.

Briefs from the state and the plaintiffs — the NCAA and major professional sports leagues — were due to SCOTUS today.

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Christie To Trump: Don’t Ban Online Gambling In New Jersey Or Elsewhere

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a resolution asking the administration of President Donald Trump not to pursue a federal ban of online gambling.

Gov. Chris Christie may not be very popular in his home state. But he’s still doing his best to protect the New Jersey casino industry, NJ online gambling included.

Christie signs NJ iGaming resolution

On Friday, Christie signed a resolution about online gambling that was adopted by the state Assembly and Senate earlier. It specifically asks the administration of President Donald Trump not to pursue a federal ban of online gambling.

New Jersey, of course, has had online gambling since 2013. Any federal ban would not only stop new states from regulating online poker and casino games, but it would also shut down the legal gambling that takes place in the Garden State.

The resolution was one of many pieces that Christie signed on Friday. A bill legalizing and regulating fantasy sports in the state was not one of them.

Christie wants the federal government to stay out of New Jersey’s business when it comes to online gambling, as he’s been presiding over a turnaround in Atlantic City. Online gambling has been a consistent revenue provider for the state’s casinos and government coffers.

New Jersey, of course, is also fighting federal law in an attempt to legalize sports betting. That case will likely be heard later this year in the US Supreme Court.

What’s in the resolution?

Here is what the resolution says:

This resolution urges United States President Donald Trump, members of President Trump’s administration, and Congress to oppose any measures and actions that would prohibit states to conduct Internet gaming. Recent measures in Congress, if pursued by the new Congress and supported by the President and his administration, would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming.

In his confirmation hearing as nominee for United States Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions indicated his desire to revisit the federal Justice Department ruling that currently allows the states to authorize Internet gaming. These measures and actions would invalidate New Jersey’s implementation of Internet gaming, which the State authorized in 2013 to be conducted by Atlantic City casinos in partnership with their Internet gaming affiliates and under strict regulation and control by the State’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.

A federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact New Jersey by dismantling the investments that the State and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate Internet gaming, taking away the economic and employment opportunities already realized by the State and its residents, and foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos in this State.

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Why is the iGaming resolution even necessary?

Pretty much every year, there’s an effort in Congress to introduce or pass an iGaming ban. A recent effort appears to have been thwarted before it really got started. That’s the same fate that most previous efforts have met.

While many hypothesized that Trump’s history in casinos would be a boon to iGaming and the gaming industry, it’s not clear if that’s the case. Sessions, as noted in the resolution, has not taken a friendly stance toward online gambling.

While Sessions has recused himself from matters regarding online gambling, certainly the Congressional avenue remains a constant threat.

It’s particularly interesting in that Christie — at least at one point — had the ear of the president during his 2016 campaign. Will Trump and his administration take notice of what Christie and New Jersey have to say?

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New Jersey’s State Takeover Of Atlantic City Paying Dividends

Since New Jersey’s state government took over operations of Atlantic City, the NJ casino town is thriving, but at what expense to state taxpayers?

You cannot fault the residents of Atlantic City for being pessimistic sometimes. The oceanside city had its fair share of troubles over the years. When the financial situation in the New Jersey casino town got so dire the state intervened, it was only natural to expect more misfortune.

In actuality, things are looking up for the Atlantic City on multiple fronts. Casinos are bouncing back, but more importantly, the city is becoming a more diverse place than a haven for slot machines by the sea.

Atlantic City taxes down, but budget not without critics

The state government took over day-to-day operations of Atlantic City in November. Last month, the city issued its first budget since the change. The finances included a tax cut, something that has not happened in the city in a decade.

The budget decreased municipal tax by five percent. Additionally, it reduced the budgets for public safety by $8 million. The state also cut costs for administration and debt services.

These cuts do not come without criticism and possible fallout. The state is struggling to reach a compromise with local police officers, which could result in substantial layoffs.

Moreover, the city’s revised property tax on casinos reduces the amount of tax revenue going to the county. With less money coming in, Atlantic County may have to raise its property tax to compensate.

Nonetheless, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian gave the city credit, albeit while getting a dig in to NJ.com:

“These are the results we expected and worked hard for. Even though the entire state takeover was both excessive and unnecessary, the state did play an important role in helping us turn things around.”

NJ casino revenue keeps trending up

While city spending is down, casino revenue is up. March saw a 9.3 percent year-over-year increase in the category. New Jersey casinos took in $221.9 million, compared to $203 million in 2016. Certainly the growth of New Jersey online casinos accounted for a chunk of the increase, but the land-based casino earnings are trending upwards as well.

State support connected to influx in development on the Boardwalk

The other reason to be optimistic about the Atlantic City economy is the growing number of developers investing in the area. Hard Rock International just announced it is investing around $400 million in renovating the shuttered Taj Mahal Casino. Non-gaming projects like the Polercoaster and Showboat’s millennial-targeted fan expo indicate the city is trying to offer more than just casinos too.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie credited his office’s interference in Atlantic City for the turnaround:

“Hard Rock is not coming here because they weren’t to engage in a charitable enterprise. South Jersey Gas is not engaged in a charitable enterprise. So, these folks who are coming back into the city are here because they believe that we have turned the corner and they are willing to put their money behind the efforts that what we’ve done together.”

A recent profile of the city by USA Today indicates several other outsiders agree with Christie that the perception of Atlantic City is changing for the better. The new casinos are helping, but it is the non-gaming developments really making an impact. For example, Stockton University plans to build a large campus in the city.

”People saw [the Stockton deal] and realized the whole area was going to change for the better,” real estate developer John Hanson told the paper. “The key is the foot traffic, which is lacking in Atlantic City – it has always been lacking, really. People didn’t go out of the casinos.”

Is New Jersey spending wisely in Atlantic City?

Both sides of the aisle admit the turnaround in Atlantic City is a big win for everyone. However, some are questioning the price tag on the state takeover.

Christie put longtime friend and former US Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa in charge of the takeover. Since then, Chiesa’s private law firm has billed $1.2 million to the city for its services, which can run up to $400 an hour. So, while the state deducted $2.5 million in administrative costs from the city budget, roughly half that sum is going to pay the firm’s administrative fees.

Christie defends the cost as well worth the result. Others question if the state is spending and saving as wisely as it claims to be.

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Icahn Wants To Sell Trump Taj Mahal; Gov. Christie Refuses To Enact Law To Punish AC Casino Owner

Carl Icahn said he wants to sell the shuttered Atlantic City resort even as Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill aimed at punishing him.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have prevent Trump Taj Mahal owner Carl Icahn from reopening the Atlantic City resort as a casino. And in the wake of that veto, Icahn said he was going to try to sell the shuttered property.

Icahn to sell?

Late on Monday, Icahn told The Associated Press that he wanted out of the gaming business in AC. That came after the legislature’s attempt to block a possible reopening of the Taj Mahal, authored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney:

“After Sweeney’s irresponsible actions, I have made a decision to sell the Taj if I can, but not to invest the $100 million to $200 million in it that I was going to,” he said. “I’m done with it.”

Reports that Icahn was trying to sell the resort leaked out in January, although he denied those rumors at the time.

Icahn has also recently agreed to be President Donald Trump’s special advisor on regulatory reform.

Christie takes air out of Icahn bill

Also on Monday, Christie signed and vetoed a number of bills. One of the bills he vetoed was S 2575, authored by Sweeney. If enacted, it would have done the following:

Disqualifies casino license applicant for five-year period if person substantially closed casino property in State; revokes license; reinstates license eligibility under certain circumstances.

The bill’s wording seems broad on its face, but the full language would only affect one casino in New Jersey: the Taj Mahal. it would have prevented the Taj from reopening within five years while still retaining its casino license.

Many in the state were less than enthused with the fact that Icahn closed the resort, citing issues in negotiating with its union workers. The statehouse passed the legislation by overwhelming margins back in December. The bill had been on Christie’s desk ever since.

The legislature could likely toss out Christie’s veto, if it wants to. The bill passed by a margin of 28-7 in the Senate and 60-17 in the Assembly. The legislature need to approve a bill by a two-thirds majority again to override the governor’s veto.

Christie and Icahn push back on casino bill

Both the governor and the Taj Mahal’s owner had pointed words for those supporting the bill.

It’s obviously within a governor’s purview to simply veto a bill without justification. But Christie opted to talk. Here is what he had to say upon vetoing the bill, to NJ.com:

“This ill-conceived and poorly worded legislation that shamelessly backs one side in a labor dispute between private parties without regard to any legal, practical or collateral consequences far exceeds the scope of acceptable legislation and has no place in our state’s laws,” Christie said.

NorthJersey.com has a full statement from both Christie and Icahn. Here’s more from the latter, speaking specifically about the bill’s author:

Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, Sweeney has already done irrevocable damage to Atlantic City specifically and New Jersey in general. After his irresponsible actions, we determined that we would not invest the $100 million to $200 million of capital we believed the Taj Mahal needed and that we would instead sell the Taj Mahal at a loss (if possible). I believe other large investors will similarly have no interest in investing significant amounts in Atlantic City or New Jersey as long as Sweeney is in control of the Senate.

The backstory of the Trump Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal closed its doors in October, joining a number of other shuttered resorts in AC in recent years.

That decision dates back to earlier in 2016, as Icahn and the Taj Mahal’s union workers could not resolve their labor strife. Icahn said he could not continue to operate the resort if he had to meet the demands of the union. Compromise was never reached over the course of several months, culminating with the closure of the property.

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