While it’s unlikely that New Jersey legislators will let the state’s online casino law expire in November, the length of the extension is still up in the air. New Jersey online casinos launched in November 2013, and the law authorizing them was given a 10-year time limit. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo’s bill A-2190 originally would have extended this by another 10 years, to November 2033. However, the Assembly Budget Committee has amended it twice in two days. The first amendment reduced the extension to just two years, while the second has lengthened it again to five.
What’s most perplexing is that lawmakers have been silent on the rationale for this. Here at Bonus, I speculated that the goal might be to gain leverage to force the industry to accept restrictions in the name of responsible gambling. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports rumors that the state’s goal might be to squeeze additional tax revenue from Atlantic City and its casino industry.
Either way, it appears that at least some Assembly lawmakers see the extension as more than just a procedural formality. Otherwise, there would be little incentive to ensure the need to renew comes up again so soon.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee had no such reservations. It approved the companion bill S-3075 earlier this month with the 10-year extension intact.
Caputo, the bill’s original sponsor, had a hand in most NJ gambling legislation since first winning his seat in 2008. However, he resigned in March to join the board of directors of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. As an important ally of the Atlantic City casino industry, his absence may also be changing the political calculus.
Neither half of the legislature has voted on the bill yet. At least one more change on one side or the other will be needed to bring the bills back into agreement before the extension can be passed.
Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey Applauds Revision
Pressure from the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey (CCSNJ) may be part of the reason for the second revision.
The Chamber had issued sharp criticism of the surprise reduction of the extension to two years. In a statement posted to Twitter on June 28, it wrote:
The CCSNJ is extremely disappointed that the New Jersey General Assembly proposed a drastic amendment to A-2190 (Capute/Chaparro), which would impact the reauthorization timeline for internet gaming […] What company will want to make, or continue to make, long-term investments in sports betting if every two years the industry is at risk of losing its operating capability? The CCSNJ implores Assembly Speaker Coughlin and all members of the Legislature to reconsider today’s amendments and return A-2910 (Caputo/Chaparro/Greenwald) to its original form.
Five years is still not 10 years, but the CCSNJ’s response to the second revision was far more positive. On June 29, it posted a statement reading in part:
The CCSNJ is incredibly pleased that the General Assembly shifted away from a drastic and unexpected two-year internet gaming authorization window to a more reasonable five-year reauthorization window through 2028. Although not the ten-year window the bill’s sponsor originally intended […] it is the element of certainty through 2028 that will lead to continued industry success by way of strong revenue collections, benefiting both the state of New Jersey, as well as Atlantic City’s casinos.