The author of an amendment to dramatically reduce the extension of New Jersey's internet gaming market is still unknown and the ultimate fate of the amendment remains uncertain ahead of a key legislative deadline.
The new sunset provision of two years instead of ten to renew online gaming operations in New Jersey is expected to clear both chambers of the state legislature as part of a budget proposal which must pass by Saturday (July 1).
But late Wednesday (June 28), rumors spread that the new timeline for the sunset provision could be five years, extending the statutory authority for New Jersey's online casino market until 2028.
If a new timeline is not approved by the end of the week, the New Jersey gaming industry would gain enough time to rally against efforts to change the original renewal term of ten years if the issue comes up again during a lame-duck legislative session after elections in November.
So far, however, online gaming companies have remained tight-lipped about the vote on Tuesday by the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee to reduce the sunset provision and extend iGaming until only 2025.
Former Democratic State Senator Ray Lesniak, who wrote New Jersey's original internet gambling law in 2013 with fellow Democratic Senator and former Atlantic City Mayor James Whelan, said the reduction is likely to discourage investments in Atlantic City.
“Playing games with an internet gaming tax increase will put Atlantic City back on life support,” Lesniak told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in an email on Wednesday.
Lesniak was referring to reports that reducing the time for lawmakers to review and extend internet gambling is part of a broader scheme to increase New Jersey’s relatively low tax rate of 15 percent on online gaming.
Revenue from higher taxes on internet gambling could then be used to help pay for a big tax cut on property taxes for senior citizens in New Jersey.
If the internet gambling bill remains open to amendments, Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, is expected to lobby for permission to launch online gaming operations, which are currently restricted to Atlantic City casinos.
New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin first proposed the property tax cut for seniors in May and has since gained the support of Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Nicholas Scutari.
“Our office does not comment on pending legislation,” Tyler Jones, a spokesman for Governor Murphy, told VIXIO in an email on Thursday.
Neither Coughlin nor Scutari responded to requests for comment.
The New Jersey attorney general’s office denied a request by VIXIO to speak to David Rebuck, the state’s director of gaming enforcement, about the newly proposed two-year sunset provision.
New Jersey Republican Assemblywoman Aura Dunn was the only member of the Assembly Budget Committee on Tuesday who voted against the bill including the new sunset deadline for extending internet gambling.
“I was already a ‘No’ even with the ten-year [extension], and I would remain a ‘No’ with the reduction even if it was a month,” Dunn told VIXIO during a phone interview.
Dunn said the committee, which spent less than two minutes on the internet gambling bill before approving the new two-year sunset provision, should not be in a rush because online gaming in New Jersey does not expire until November.
“Why are we not looking into the [gambling] addiction crisis that we’re faced with and also the explosion of underage gambling?” Dunn said.
Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University near Atlantic City, said a reduction in the renewal term for internet gambling may prove helpful for the gaming industry and government regulators.
“Two years from now, both interests may have the critical information they need about the stability and sustainability of the internet gambling market to make better decisions about how it should be taxed and regulated moving forward,” Bokunewicz said.