A few short days after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) signed Assembly Bill 114 into law, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accepted changes and signed a modified online gambling bill into law after a veto last week. It probably won’t take effect for several months as the New Jersey state Division of Gaming Enforcement is authorized to set the start date.
The two bills are quite different. Nevada’s bill became law with immediate effect and included provisions for Interstate Compacts – a ploy designed to circumvent any non-specific federal regulation. New Jersey on the other hand crafted in the ability to serve games overseas as soon as federal law will allow it. The two states are quite different as well; Nevada needs outside players because of their sparse population but New Jersey could do quite well with only the bill’s 15% tax on Atlantic City casinos profits. New Jersey has about three times as many residents as Nevada with about 4% of all citizens identified as problem gamblers by the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling.
The tax increase from 10% to 15% on Atlantic City casinos online profits was one of the reasons Gov. Christie signed the bill today that he vetoed last week. Another provision he insisted on was that the law contain a sunset clause and expire in 10 years if it is not renewed by both houses and signed again by the then residing Governor. This provision is to give the state a ‘reality check’ in terms of problem gamblers but we suspect contracts will be renegotiated for that anniversary as well.
Poker players will most likely be the first to enjoy both new laws as Nevada has licensed all three aspects for the game other than the actual delivery and New Jersey has providers chomping at the bit to serve poker from Atlantic City. The Nevada law does not restrict any of the elements to a particular city (The Strip is an unincorporated part of Nevada officially known as Paradise, not Las Vegas) where as the New Jersey law requires that all games will be served from Atlantic City.
The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel (Atlantic City’s first ‘locals’ gambling center) was recently purchased by the parent company of PokerStars (Rational Group) and we expect this to be the launching place of New Jersey online gaming. It is anybody’s guess who will serve up the first casino and slots games, but it is sure to be an event, and not a quiet moment for those who have long awaited this development.
With Delaware the true forerunner in legislation, Nevada rushing through an Emergency Measure to pass the first meaningful online gambling law, and New Jersey now solidly in the arena it should be quite a spectacle to see the fight for dominance in a market that isn’t even sure it is a market. Federal legislation will have to be passed to ensure that President Obama’s DOJ opinion stating that the Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports betting is indeed the law of the land. Without federal legislation Nevada wins, as States Rights will ensure that the Interstate Compact provision will survive a lengthy court battle. But New Jersey did not limit itself to American players and may have bluffed just long enough to take the pot. Time will tell.