NJ Racetracks Could Exploit Online Casino Loophole

NJ Racetracks Could Exploit Online Casino Loophole

Back in November, voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to open casinos in northern New Jersey. But now, racetracks in the northern part of the state are interested in using internet gambling as a way around the law.

Two members of the state Assembly have introduced a law that would see two major racetracks partner with Atlantic City casinos to open internet gambling cafes.

As NJ.com points out, the state constitution only makes way for land-based casinos in Atlantic City. Given that New Jersey voters rejected the plan for northern casinos, this rule remains intact.

But internet gambling creates a potential loophole that could allow for online casino gambling. The licenses can only be held by Atlantic City casinos, and gamblers must be within state lines to play.

Those in support of bill A4255 state that nothing prohibits visitors at Monmouth Park (Oceanport), Freehold Raceway (Freehold Borough), the Meadowlands Racetrack (East Rutherford) from offering internet cafes. The proposed legislation seeks to create gambling cafes through the cooperation of Atlantic City casinos.

The bill wouldn’t require voter approval – only state house and senate approval. And Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), a co-sponsor of A4255, denies that this legislation is designed to “circumvent the public.”

“Internet gaming exists,” said Caputo, who supported northern New Jersey casinos. “We’re now finding a location for it.”

Dennis Drazin, an attorney who works with Monmouth Park, believes that bill A4225 is a “win-win” for both Atlantic City and racetracks since each has been struggling in recent years.

“The racetracks would be leasing the casinos floor space in a designated area for a dollar,” Drazin explained. “The casinos would have another venue to operate online gaming. You already have people there betting on horse racing. We’d be giving casinos a chance to get a regular customer that is used to gaming.”

Drazin also argues that the state’s online gaming operation hasn’t been as profitable as expected, earning $16.6 million in October. But he believes that this figure could rise with added revenue through New Jersey racetracks.

Critics point out that the legislation is too broad and opens the door for racetracks to install computers that would be similar to slot machines.

“We just had an election on this issue,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), formerly a mayor of Atlantic City. “I think the people of New Jersey spoke loud and clear.”

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) hasn’t said whether the assembly will look at A4225, but he also didn’t rule it out.

“Online gaming is a reality, and with that in mind, this is a discussion worth having as we consider the future of gaming in New Jersey,” said Prieto. “I’ll continue listen to all sides as we move forward before making any decision.”

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a strong advocate of Atlantic City, also said that he’s unsure of whether to place the bill before the senate.

“I would have to look at it,” said Sweeney. “But I really don’t know.”

He supported northern New Jersey casinos because he believes it would attract out-of-state gamblers. However, he doesn’t want competition close to Atlantic City.

“We don’t want to take anymore market share for a reason,” he said. “North Jersey gaming was designed to capture people from other states.”

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