Last month, the Justice Department opened the door for cash-strapped states and their lotteries to bring online gambling to their residents as long as it does not involve sports betting. The department said the federal Wire Act only prevents gamblers from wagering on sports outcomes online, and said other in-state bets would be all right.
Nevada is moving fast to capitalize on the ruling. Late last week, the state's gambling regulators approved rules that allow companies in the state to apply for licenses to operate poker websites. Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns four of Atlantic City's 11 casinos, and Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns half of the city's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, have already submitted proposals to be licensed in Nevada.
New Jersey tried to become the first in the nation to approve Internet gambling last year, but Christie, a Republican, vetoed the bill in March, fearing it would violate federal law and lead to a proliferation of backroom Internet gambling dens across the state.
A spokesman for the governor could not say Monday whether Christie would sign the bill if it passes. A spokesman for the Senate leadership said it would not be clear until Tuesday whether there is enough support to move forward quickly on the bill, and a spokesman for Assembly leadership said leaders would listen to Lesniak's request before deciding on a course of action.
Lesniak said that if the Internet bill becomes law, giving the casinos a new revenue stream, that would not necessarily make New Jersey lawmakers more likely to approve slot machines for horse tracks.
"Those are two separate issues," he said.
Internet gambling revenue would be taxed at 10 percent instead of the current 8 percent on traditional casino revenue.
The bill also would allocate $100,000 a year from online gambling proceeds to fund programs for compulsive gamblers. People with gambling problems would be able to set limits on how much they could bet or lose within a specific time frame.