Following comments by US Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions during a Senate confirmation hearing, the specter of a federal online gambling prohibition is once again being raised.
Fear that the Department of Justice may do (another) about-face when it comes to online gambling — or that legislative action could take place — resulted in Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo introducing a resolution in New Jersey.
More on NJ and an online gambling resolution
The resolution urges the new administration of President Donald Trump and Congress to oppose any actions or measures that would result in an online gambling prohibition.
AJR 137 states:
“The Legislature of the State of New Jersey urges United States President Donald Trump, President Trump’s administration, and Congress to oppose any federal measures and actions to prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming.
A federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact New Jersey by dismantling the investments that the State and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate Internet gaming, taking away the economic and employment opportunities already realized by the State and its residents, and foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos in this State.”
The effect of a resolution
Resolutions of this sort (whether the legislature pass them or not) are largely symbolic. They often target the home state’s congressional delegation. By and large, these resolutions convey the feelings of the lawmakers and constituents back home, and what effect a specific piece of federal legislation would have on the area.
For New Jersey, rolling back the state’s online gambling industry would not only cost the state at least $29.5 million in annual tax revenue (its haul from 2016). It would also mean an investment loss (by casinos and the state) as well as jobs.
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Previous resolutions decrying online gambling prohibition
Resolution like this appeared at the state level previously. Lawmakers introduced similar resolutions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 2014.
In June 2014, a resolution “urging Congress to oppose” the Restoration of America’s Wire Act was introduced by four NJ Assembly members, including Mazzeo. The 2014 resolution passed the Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Assembly Committee in October when RAWA appeared to be picking up a little momentum.
In November 2014, Rep. Mike Sturla of Pennsylvania introduced a House Resolution urging Congress to vote against any legislation that would ban online gambling at the federal level.
That year also saw Georgia Lottery Chief Debbie Dlugolenski Alford send a letter to Congress in which she railed against a potential federal online gambling prohibition. She called online lottery sales “critical to our success and our ability to grow revenues for education.”
Lawmakers from online gambling states tried to nip any federal action in the bud back in 2014. If RAWA, or a reversal of the 2011 DOJ opinion that green-lighted intrastate online gambling, gains any traction, I suspect Mazzeo’s resolution will be the first of many.
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