TRENTON – In a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder, State Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, the sponsor of legislation authorizing intrastate online gambling in New Jersey, reaffirmed that no federal law exists to preclude New Jersey from establishing such a program and that the federal government should not stand in the way of states choosing to exercise their rights.
“I wanted to respond to recent assertions made by U.S. Senators Harry Reid and John Kyl which were simply not supported by law, but instead seemed to be based on parochial interests,” said Senator Lesniak (D-Union.) “Under existing federal law, there’s simply no basis to deny New Jersey or any other state from establishing and regulating intrastate online gambling, and in fact, such operations are expressly exempted under the 2006 law on unlawful Internet gambling. New Jersey should be allowed to pursue online gaming, so long as we conform to the provisions set forth in the 2006 law, because it will be a boon to our economy and will help modernize our gaming product.
“When it comes to Internet gaming, we simply cannot turn our backs on the $100 million in net revenue for our casinos, the hundreds of new, high-paying, high-tech jobs which would be created, and the tens of millions in new State revenues which would be generated,” added Lesniak. “This is the sort of jump start that Atlantic City’s ailing gaming economy needs, and would position New Jersey at the forefront of what will be the future of gaming in this country and the world. New Jersey should decide for itself whether it wants to move its 20th century casinos into the 21st century, and the federal government shouldn’t try to stand in our way.”
Lesniak wrote in his letter that the two often-cited federal laws that apply to online gaming – the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 and the “Wire Act of 1961,” as it applies to gambling – were designed to prevent illegal gaming activity across state lines. Many times, illegal gaming operations are used to fund other criminal enterprises, including organized crime, prostitution and gun smuggling. Lesniak said that under the federal law, states have leeway to regulate and police intrastate online gaming as they see fit.
Earlier this year, Lesniak sponsored S-490, a bill which would have authorized New Jersey casinos to operate intrastate online gambling. Although Gov. Christie ultimately vetoed the bill – not out of concerns over federal law, but instead out of concern over the mechanics of the bill – he said in his veto message that he supports the concept of creating new gaming products for Atlantic City, and that he’s open to working on the legislation. Lesniak said he would have new Internet Gaming legislation, which addresses the governor’s concerns, when the Senate reconvenes in the fall.
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