ATLANTIC CITY — Two New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that would drastically expand Internet gambling in the state, allowing it to take bets from other states and countries.
The bill introduced last week by Sens. Ray Lesniak and Jim Whelan would allow New Jersey to enter into reciprocal agreements with other states or countries where Internet gambling is legal. That would allow people in those places to access the 15 gambling websites run by the Atlantic City casinos. Only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have legalized Internet gambling in the U.S., but it is well-established in many European countries.
Current law requires that anyone gambling online in New Jersey be physically located in the state.
The legislation’s main goal is to give Atlantic City casinos access to the global Internet gambling market, something supporters of online gambling have long wanted.
“This opens up the worldwide market to us, the $30 billion Big Kahuna,” said Lesniak, D-Union.
The bill also would require payment processors to get a casino industry service license, requiring background and other checks, to persuade financial institutions to allow credit cards to be used more easily in online gambling.
Internet gambling got off to a relatively slow start in New Jersey. It started Nov. 21 with a five-day trial period, followed by a full statewide launch. Through the end of 2013, Internet gambling took in about $8.4 million.
Many casino executives and industry analysts expect that figure to grow this year as more players join, more advertising takes place and mobile applications are expanded.
But many banks and financial institutions have thus far been reluctant to allow credit cards to be used to fund online gambling accounts, recalling the not-too-distant days when the federal government prosecuted Internet gambling operations.
Lesniak said the added scrutiny and regulation of payment processors should help make credit card issuers more willing to allow their use in Internet gambling.
If approved, the bill would be a boon for online poker, potentially bringing millions of new players to New Jersey poker sites. As of Jan. 12, users had created 155,374 accounts with New Jersey gambling sites, though officials say many users have accounts on more than one site.