Industry Reports

Atlantic County Grows More Hostile to Internet Gambling Bill

Last year, New Jersey’s General Assembly has approved a bill that seeks to allow horse racing tracks to run online gambling platform affiliated with an Atlantic City casino. Quite unsurprisingly, the bill was accepted with mixed feelings. As for now, the likelihood of the bill to authorize racetracks to offer casino-like gaming on their premises looks remote after City Council approved a resolution to oppose the bill, also known as Bill 4255.

On 17th January this year, City Council opposed New Jersey Assembly Bill 4255. Council members explained that the bill is an attempt to bypass the results of a statewide referendum required to expand gambling industry in New Jersey. As it can be recalled, the referendum question appeared on the general election ballots in November 2016. Voters across the state were asked to weigh on the proposed gambling opportunity described as online gambling run at Internet cafés. Atlantic County voters were resoundingly against it, defeating the bill by a 4 to 1 ratio.

Council members explained that the bill aims at masking the gambling expansion attempt by calling it online gambling at Internet cafés. Councilman Vince Sera explained that the New Jersey’s General Assembly is trying to exploit loopholes in the system and make a stealthy move to forward the bill. It is important to note that New Jersey is one of the few states that regulated their online gambling market. Physical gambling, on the other hand, remains restricted to the seven land-based casinos located in Atlantic City.

Internet Cafés’ Supporters Cross Swords with Opponents

The controversial bill was originally introduced by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer. At first glance, the bill might seem to be unnecessary, having in mind that online gambling is legal in New Jersey. In fact, the bill is about authorizing racetracks to run an online gambling platform affiliated with an Atlantic City casino. Proponents explained that the bill is a win-win deal for both parties, including Atlantic City’s casinos and the racetracks.

Mr. Sera argued that the gambling industry is hurting Atlantic City and the bill is against the wish of the voters. Sera strongly criticized Gov. Chris Christie’s move to put a veto on a bill to designate Atlantic City as a Garden State Growth Zone.

The Council member explained that Christie killed Atlantic City’s hopes to stop being dependent on the gaming industry. A Growth Zone designation offers various tax incentives to lure companies and developers to relocate within the “aviation district” or one mile surrounding the Atlantic City International Airport. That would help the municipalities in Atlantic County to diversify their economy and stop relying on the gambling industry. Mr. Sera clearly announced that the majority of the people in the north are against gambling.