New Jersey Sets New Five-Year Sunset Period For Internet Gaming

July 3, 2023
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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation on Friday to renew the state's wildly successful internet gambling law, but the battle over the reduced extension of the law to five years may be just the beginning.

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New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation on Friday (June 30) to renew the state's wildly successful internet gambling law, but the battle over the reduced extension of the law to five years may be just the beginning.

Sources are speculating, and it is merely speculation at this point, that New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, also a Democrat, is exploiting the sunset provision ahead of a move to raise the relatively low tax rate of 15 percent in the third largest regulated online casino market in the world.

During the week leading up to the passage of the state budget on Friday, unknown lawmakers engaged in cloak and dagger maneuvers to slash the proposed extension of New Jersey's internet gaming law from ten years to an astonishingly low two years, meaning legislators would have to return to the issue as soon as 2025.

Near the beginning of a hearing on bill Assembly Bill 2190 on June 27, the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee passed the extension of the 2013 internet gambling law in less than two minutes.

There was no response when the committee’s chairwoman, Democrat Eliana Pintor Marin, asked if she could move the bill with amendments.

One of the amendments included the draconian reduction of the renewal of the internet gambling extension to two years.

Marin did not describe the amendments or disclose the name of the amendments’ sponsors.

Without any debate, the committee passed the bill by a vote of 14-1 with only Republican Assemblywoman Aura Dunn opposing.

Democratic Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, one of the primary sponsors of the original version of the internet gambling bill which included a ten-year renewal, voted for the amended version limiting the extension to two years.

”You can’t amend a bill without the sponsor’s consent, so Chaparro had to know about the reduction. But we still don’t know who offered the amendment,” said a New Jersey gambling lobbyist who requested anonymity.

New Jersey’s gambling industry appeared to be caught totally off guard by the reduction from ten to two years.

“We’re all trying to figure out what happened,” Republican Assemblyman Don Guardian, who is a former mayor of Atlantic City, told the Associated Press.

Word spread swiftly after the surprising truncation of the internet gambling law, and the industry’s advocates began demanding answers.

One day later on June 28, New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald confirmed that the internet gambling extension had been amended yet again and the new extension would be five years until 2028, instead of two years.

“Some felt that ten years was too long, and five years was the right amount,” Greenwald told PoliticoPro.

Still, Greenwald did not identify the people he was referring to, and no one was publicly proposing a reduction in the ten-year extension until the budget committee hearing on June 27.

It is perhaps difficult to understand why a sunset provision was even included in New Jersey’s first internet gambling bill in 2013 because the industry has since become so successful.

“We had to put it in because at that time internet gambling was so new and no one knew if it would succeed,” said Ray Lesniak, the former New Jersey state senator who co-sponsored the 2013 bill with fellow state senator and former Atlantic City Mayor James Whelan.

After last week’s events, it seems fair to say the sunset provision has become a political football which may continue to plague New Jersey’s most successful gambling sector.

The man perhaps primarily responsible for the success of internet gambling in New Jersey — David Rebuck, director of the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement — was not made available by the attorney general’s office to talk to the media about the reduction.

Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts Casino and the Casino Association of New Jersey, also declined to comment on the five-year extension.

Although not confirmed, there are reports that Assembly Speaker Coughlin might try to increase the state tax rate on internet gambling after elections in November to help pay for a massive property tax deduction for New Jersey’s senior citizens.

How New Jersey’s internet gaming industry would respond to such a move — like almost everything else that has occurred over the last week — is shrouded in mystery.

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