A4255 Would Enable NJ Racetracks To Install Slot Machines

Bill Authorizing “Online Gambling” at New Jersey Racetracks Clears First Hurdle, But Difficulties Lie Ahead

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A bill that would allow two racetracks, Monmouth Park and Meadowlands, to offer online gambling in New Jersey cleared its first hurdle on Monday, passing the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and Arts Committee by a vote of 4-3.

The bill, A4255, was introduced by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer on October 20, and seems benign on the surface; there is currently nothing preventing racetracks from partnering with land-based casinos in Atlantic City and launching online gambling websites.

Per the three-page bill:

“This bill would permit a running or harness horse racetrack in this State to enter into an agreement with a casino located in Atlantic City, or such a casino’s Internet gaming affiliate, that allows the racetrack’s premises to be available as a venue at which the holder of an Internet gaming account may place wagers at casinos using the Internet.”

However, the simplistic wording of the bill and the vague use of the term “internet gaming” are not accidental.

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to A4255, and the intentions of its supporters go far beyond launching an online gambling website.

An act of explicit subterfuge

After New Jersey voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have authorized up to two casinos in North Jersey (with Meadowlands being one of the likely landing spots), A4255 is less about online gambling and more about turning Monmouth Park and Meadowlands into racinos.

The language in the bill regarding online gambling is little more than misdirection.

If passed, the bill would allow the racetracks to install computers (connected to the internet and offering games from a licensed New Jersey online casino) that would essentially be slot machines.

Following the hearing on A4255, Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo told Politico, “This intent was not what we thought when we came here. And now that you read into the bill and heard the testimony, there’s something up here. Something doesn’t smell right.”

Mazzeo doesn’t have to just think something doesn’t smell right; the bill’s supporters have said as much. And they’re showing no qualms about their underlying intentions.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, one of the most vocal advocates of casino expansion outside of Atlantic City told Politico, “Well, you know what? This is how the world turns. I guess we’re going to have gaming at the tracks.”

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The long and winding road forward

The bill’s author, Assemblyman Dancer, was another legislator who supported the North Jersey casino referendum, and he referred to A4255 as “another way of winning.” According to Politico, Dancer dismissed the idea that adding “slot machines” at racetracks would violate the will of the voters.

However, the bill barely passed the committee and faces a steep climb going forward.

Considering how resoundingly the voters of New Jersey rejected the casino referendum last month (it lost by a 70/30 margin), it would likely be political suicide for some legislators to vote “yes” on this bill.

That’s assuming it makes it even makes it to the Assembly and Senate floors for a vote.

Image credit: Stefan Holm / Shutterstock.com

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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