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NJ eyes extending robust online bet market another 10 years

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Mindful that its thriving internet gambling market is one of the brightest spots in New Jersey’s uneven gambling landscape, the state’s lawmakers are moving to extend authorization for online bets for another 10 years.

A state Assembly committee held a hearing Thursday to consider extending the law authorizing internet gambling through 2033, and advanced the measure to the next step in the legislative process. It still requires additional rounds of approval before going to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature.

“Internet gaming has proven to be an integral part of gaming in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Don Guardian, a former mayor of Atlantic City. “It’s one of the reasons we still have casinos in New Jersey.”

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, a former Atlantic City casino executive, noted that online gambling provided a crucial revenue stream for the casinos while they were closed for 3 1/2 months in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic. Even when the casinos reopened later that year, some customers were wary of coming to a casino in person and opted to gamble online.

Internet gambling “kept those casinos (afloat) through a very difficult time,” Caputo said.

Most of the major online gambling companies, including FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Bally’s support the bill.

New Jersey launched internet casino games in Nov. 2013, and since then its casinos have won $4.79 billion from gamblers online. That’s nearly twice the $2.47 billion Pennsylvania casinos have won online since July 2019.

Other states with online gambling include Michigan ($2 billion since Jan. 2021); Connecticut ($199.7 million since Oct. 2021); West Virginia ($137.4 million since July 2020); and Delaware ($42.2 million since Dec. 2013). Nevada offers online poker but does not break out that revenue separately from the in-person revenue casinos report to the state.

Those figures are for online casino games only, and do not include sports betting revenue, which is reported separately.

New Jersey had led the nation in terms of sports betting revenue from 2018 through the beginning of this year. That’s when New York began taking online sports bets and instantly seized the nationwide lead in the fast-growing industry.

While the internet gambling numbers look impressive on paper, Atlantic City casino executives caution that they are not all they seem. Internet gambling money, much like money won through sports betting, is shared with third-parties like tech platforms. Not all the money reported by the state to have been won by the casinos online is actually kept by the casinos; as much as 70% of it goes to outside parties, casino executives say.

But even the money that remains is a help to a gambling resort whose nine casinos are struggling to return to the level of business they did before the pandemic struck.

The Assembly committee also advanced another bill that would require casinos conducting internet gambling in New Jersey to prominently advertise the name of their Atlantic City brick-and-mortar casino on all their online betting web sites.

Another bill advanced on Thursday would include esports, or competitive video games, as internet gambling events, providing esports-specific permits to take bets on the games.

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Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

By WAYNE PARRY
Associated Press

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