Lawmakers are expected to give final approval to an Internet gambling bill that incorporates all of Gov. Chris Christie’s recommendations by Feb. 26, officials said.
“Internet gaming will be a crucial boost to Atlantic City as we continue our efforts to revitalize the area,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, said in a statement. “The sooner we bring Internet gaming to New Jersey, the better off Atlantic City is going to be."
The Office of Legislative Services is in the process of drafting a substitute bill, which includes all of the governor's suggested changes, including increasing the tax rate to 15 percent from 10 percent and limiting the implementation of Internet gambling to 10 years, Assemblyman John Amodeo, R-Atlantic, said.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said a vote will be taken Feb. 26, prior to the governor’s budget address.
"We need to keep New Jersey's gaming industry modern and competitive, and that means allowing carefully regulated Internet gaming,” she said in a statement.
The Senate is not scheduled to meet until March but because lawmakers want to move on the Internet gambling bill, they are pressing for the earlier Feb. 26 vote when they will be gathering already to hear the governor speak, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said.
The bill then would be routed to the governor for his signature. Christie would then have 45 days to sign the legislation. Christie, who has vetoed similar legislation in the past, said he would sign the substitute bill if it included his recommendations.
Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, called the governor's recommendations simple changes that can be made to tighten up the bill and bring Atlantic City gambling into the 21st century.
“Opening New Jersey gaming up to Internet wagering will provide untold benefits to the state and to the city, which has had to contend with increased out-of-state gaming competition in recent years,” Whelan said.
Casino executives and many industry observers believe Atlantic City needs to offer Internet gambling in order to survive. At the moment, only Nevada and Delaware have legalized similar measures. Other industry observers said they believe online wagering will eventually deter gamblers from visiting the resort.
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