Legalized online poker may soon become a reality in New Jersey. State Senator Raymond Lesniak (pictured) introduced S 3167on January 11th. The measure specifically calls out several real money games that would be permitted in cyberspace, including online poker, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, craps, the big six wheel, slot machines, mini baccarat, red dog, pai gow, and sic bo. Among the organizations helping to push the measure through the New Jersey legislature is the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA).

Casino licensees in New Jersey would be able to take advantage of the opportunity to offer internet gambling. Servers and other computer equipment must be located in Atlantic County and, to avoid any confusion about where bets are placed in the virtual space, S 3167 notes, “All internet wagers shall be deemed to be placed when received in Atlantic City by the licensee. Any intermediate routing of electronic data in connection with a wager shall not affect the fact that the wager is placed in Atlantic City.”
Only New Jersey residents age 21 or older would be able to place bets under the new scheme and all licensees would pay an up-front fee of $200,000 to be able to offer real money wagers. In addition, licensed internet gambling outfits would be subject to a $100,000 annual renewal fee. A yearly fee of $100,000 charged to each internet gambling operator will be used to treat compulsive gambling and licensees are subject to a 20% tax rate. In the brick and mortar world in New Jersey, casinos are subject to just an 8% rate.

How will the New Jersey Casino Control Commission regulate the companies it licenses? S 3167’s text reveals, “As part of the application process, a casino licensee must submit to the commission for its approval a description of its system of internal procedures (including security procedures) and administrative and accounting controls for internet wagering, including provisions that provide for real time monitoring of all games.” In addition, each company must submit its gaming software and relevant technology to the Commission for testing.

iMEGA Chairman Joe Brennan commented in a press release why the legalization of internet gambling is crucial at the state level: “The efforts to resolve the internet gambling issue have stalled in Washington D.C. If states assert their right to regulate gambling and take a serious look at permitting internet gambling within their borders, one side effect may be a breaking of the deadlock in the U.S. Congress.”

On Capitol Hill, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA, pictured at left) has introduced HR 2267, which establishes a full licensing and regulatory framework for internet gambling companies to solicit U.S. customers. It boasts 65 co-sponsors, including two new additions on January 13th, Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Charlie Melancon (D-LA).

Another New Jersey lawmaker making waves in the world of internet gambling is Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ, pictured at right), the author of S 1597, the Internet Poker and Game of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act. The bill explains, “The term ‘internet game of skill’ means an internet-based game in which success is predominantly determined by the skill of the players, including poker, chess, bridge, mahjong, and backgammon.” S 1597 was introduced in August and currently awaits debate in the U.S. Senate. In the House, HR 2267 was discussed in the Financial Services Committee in December, but has yet to be marked up.

Lesniak also introduced S 492in New Jersey, which attempts to legalize wagers on sports in local casinos. Wagers on sporting events and teams based in New Jersey would remain outlawed under S 492 and sports wagering would be subject to the standard 8% tax on gross revenues. The measure calls for a voter referendum in order for it to become law.

Stay tuned to for the latest news on Lesniak’s internet gambling initiative.