The New Jersey Assembly proposal to extend the legal authorization for online casino play in the state has seen multiple substantive changes this week but it seems no one knows why. Perhaps a more succinct summary of the situation is the people who know what the modifications are about aren’t talking.
What began as another decade of approval for online casino apps morphed into a mere two years, then five. While the legislative process is nowhere near complete yet, the amorphous nature of the current proceedings produces many questions.
New Jersey online casino amendments coming in hot in Assembly committees
When New Jersey legalized online casino apps in 2013, it only did so for a decade. The explanation for the sunset date of this year was leaving legislators room to tweak the framework if physical casinos in Atlantic City started to see their businesses decline.
That decade has passed and it’s now time to extend permissions allowing the best New Jersey online casinos to continue to operate. Proposals to simply repeat the 2013 act are circulating in both chambers of the New Jersey legislature. The latest news involves the bill in the lower chamber.
On June 27 and 28, A2190 saw two significant amendments while in the state Assembly’s Budget Committee. The first cut the original 10-year renewal for online casino play in New Jersey down to just a fifth of that time.
As Wayne Parry of the Associated Press reports, there was no real explanation for that drastic change. It didn’t go unnoticed, however. Parry says casino operators and their allies in New Jersey raised their concerns. They stated that a two-year renewal would disincentivize investments into online gambling companies in the state.
The Budget Committee acted quickly on those complaints. On Wednesday, another amendment changed the extension period again to five years. That still represents a deviation from the 10-year proposal that a Senate committee approved.
It’s unclear which version of the extension will pass in either chamber. Neither body has yet to hold a full vote on either bill. At this stage, the most intriguing aspect of the situation isn’t the series of changes. It’s the complete lack of explanation for them.
No one knows, or no one is saying, why the amendments were approved
Parry says everyone in Trenton is either ignorant or silent when it comes to why the Assembly Budget Committee slashed the extension period.
“No explanation was given for either of the changes, and top Democratic leaders did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Parry does assign speculation about a theory to “Atlantic City casino and political officials,” though. That speculation revolves around a related dispute between the state and Atlantic City regarding the city’s share of taxes on gambling revenue.
That relationship has soured some since New Jersey’s legislature modified the PILOT (Payments instead of Taxes) program for Atlantic City casinos. The city felt that the new law reduced its cut of those payments and litigation on that matter is ongoing.
Parry’s sources speculated that the cut down to two and then five years could be leverage for the state against the city. However, no one has gone on the record to officially confirm or deny that. At this point, it might be unrealistically optimistic to expect that to change, too.
It’s possible that the final bill that the legislature approves could restore the original 10-year extension. For the time being, there’s a deviation between the Assembly and Senate proposals and it isn’t clear why.