And the bill includes harsh penalties for anyone setting up an unlicensed back-room Internet betting operation. Violations would be fined $1,000 per player per day for making a premises available for placing illegal Internet bets, and $10,000 per violation for advertising that a premises may be used for such a purpose.
The bill would tax Internet gambling revenues at 10 percent, up from the 8 percent that the casinos pay for money won on their premises.
It would impose an initial licensing fee of $200,000, plus additional annual fees of $200,000 to be split between state casino regulators and programs treating and combating compulsive gambling.
The bill would require that players be physically present in New Jersey, and that state regulators have access to technology that would verify a player's physical location when placing or cashing out a bet. But it also contains a provision that would let New Jersey casinos take bets from outside the state if the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement determines that doing so would not violate federal law. It also would allow such out-of-state bets if they were part of an interstate compact that does not violate federal law.
Lesniak said the bill gives the state between three to nine months to get Internet gambling up and running.
New Jersey is racing to expand the number of ways in which its residents can legally gamble. In addition to the Internet betting bill, the state is also engaged in a lawsuit with the major professional and collegiate sports leagues over its intention to offer sports betting, despite a federal ban on it in all but four states. It also plans to let casino patrons use hand-held mobile gambling devices while on the grounds of a casino hotel.
The moves come as Atlantic City, which recently lost its ranking as the nation's second-largest gambling market after Nevada to Pennsylvania, continues to lose market share, casino revenue and jobs. In 2006, Atlantic City's casinos took in $5.2 billion; last year that had fallen to $3.3 billion, and this year's total will be lower than that.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC