New Jersey’s need to grant its legal online casinos a 10-year extension seemed like a mere legislative formality, but the Assembly Budget Committee has added a wrinkle to the plot by amending the bill to extend the state’s iGaming law by only two years. The companion bill had already emerged from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with the full extension intact. Therefore, the two halves of the legislature are now at odds and must come to terms if a bill is to pass.
At a hearing on June 27, Assemblywoman and Budget Committee Chair Eliana Pintor Marin referenced amendments to the bill before calling the vote, which passed. Most committee members who were present for the roll call voted in favor, with Republican Assemblywoman Aura K. Dunn casting the lone vote against.
Bonus has reached out to Dunn for comment and will update this article if she responds.
There was no discussion of the amendments or explanation of their nature. As of June 28, the legislature’s website had not been updated to reflect the amended text. However, the original text consisted solely of changing the number 10 in the phrase “shall expire 10 years following the operative date” to a 20. Associated Press reports that the amendment shortened the extension to two years, suggesting that this would be a 12 in the new text.
Why Did the NJ Budget Committee Reduce the Online Casino Extension?
Neither the Associated Press nor Bonus has obtained an official explanation for the change.
However, the state’s current volume of active legislation and regulatory changes pertaining to responsible gaming might provide a clue. The launch of sports betting in 2018 and the years of aggressive marketing that followed have raised concerns about online gambling across the US.
Atlantic City casinos hold the exclusive licenses to host online casinos in New Jersey and are powerful forces in state politics. Meanwhile, the American Gaming Association, which represents commercial and tribal casinos throughout the US, opposes many efforts to place additional limits on legal gambling. In particular, it objects to any attempt to restrict advertising of online gambling sites, saying that this helps the offshore black market.
Given the amount of tax revenue online gambling generates and the number of jobs it provides, it’s unlikely that many politicians want to see it disappear altogether.
One possible effect of a shorter extension would be to send a message to the industry not to take the continued legality of online gambling for granted. If the matter is up for debate again in 2025, that might motivate online gambling operators to be on their best behavior or make them less inclined to lobby against certain limitations in the meantime.
At the same time, it would give lawmakers time to wait and see whether current trends continue.
A Note on Tax Revenue Forecasts
The forecast of $1 billion lifetime tax revenue for NJ online casinos by November is a projection by Bonus News Managing Editor Alex Weldon. As of the end of May 2023, the market had generated $937.7 million in tax revenue and was adding around $24 million per month to the total. At that pace, New Jersey should pass the $1 billion all-time tax revenue milestone sometime in August.