New Jersey Internet Gambling Bill Would Add Stricter Requirements

Posted on December 8th, 2014 by Alana Markoff
New Jersey online gambling bill

Ralph Caputo’s bill would require online gambling companies to face the same regulatory scrutiny as land-based casinos. (Image: AssemblyDems.com)

A New Jersey Internet gambling bill, proposed by New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex County) would put stricter controls on the state’s online gambling market by requiring Internet gaming companies to receive full casino licenses in order to operate.

However, while the bill would certainly make it harder for PokerStars to open for business in New Jersey, most observers seem to believe that the bill has little (if any) chance of passing into law.

Caputo Not a Fan of Online Gambling

Caputo, the primary sponsor of the bill, is also the chairman of the Assembly’s Tourism, Gaming and Arts committee.

That committee recently unanimously voted in favor of the bill, which will give it the opportunity to be heard by the full Assembly.

According to Caputo, who is a former Atlantic City casino executive, the bill is necessary if online gambling is continued to be offered in the state.

“I was never a fan of Internet gaming, to be honest with you. Those results have been very disappointing,” he told The Press of Atlantic City. “But if we’re going to do it, we should do it right.”

Caputo, who was one of just five Assembly members to vote against online gambling in 2013, says his primary concern is the amount of regulatory oversight for online casinos and poker sites, which he believes should be just as strong as for any land-based casino.

“You’re not selling linens, you’re not selling cups, you’re operating an Internet casino and the integrity of those games has to be on the same level as casino gaming,” Caputo said.

That process would be much more difficult for online gambling companies than the current licensing procedures.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement would still be required to make background checks on the companies and their principal officers as they do for the online gambling sites now, but the New Jersey Casino Control Commission would also become part of the process, having the final say over whether companies received licenses.

Public hearings and testimony would be a major part of that process.

Caputo’s bill would make life harder on any online gambling operator, but it may be that he has one particular operator in mind: PokerStars. Caputo has long been an opponent of PokerStars’ reentry into the New Jersey market, saying that their background and history requires strict scrutiny.

In an August op-ed for NJ.com, Caputo said that despite the fact that PokerStars was now under the ownership of Amaya Gaming, their past should still be taken into account by state regulators.

“PokerStars’ attempt to brand itself with new ownership doesn’t negate the company’s checkered history,” Caputo wrote. “Any new licensing review of PokerStars must take that history into account as the firm’s way off conducting business threatens to undermine the integrity and public confidence that Atlantic City has worked diligently to build.”

While Caputo’s bill could easily complicate the ongoing investigation into PokerStars’ licensing application in New Jersey, comments by some key players have suggested that the legislation has little chance of passing into law.

When asked on Twitter what the chances were of Caputo’s legislation ultimately passing, State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union County) was blunt in his response.

“Somewhere between zero and zero,” Lesniak replied.

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