Unite-HERE, the largest of Atlantic City’s casino worker unions has come down in favor of the new online gambling bill, currently awaiting Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.
The new law would allow the online, real-money playing of the games already played at the Atlantic City brick-and-mortar casinos. This would include a legal way to play online poker in the US state of New Jersey.
Taxes on Internet gambling revenues would be levied at 10%, as opposed to the 8% currently applied to land-based casinos.
Due to conflicting – but mostly prohibitive – American gambling laws, many states have been forced to act on their own in legalizing online gambling. In the case of NJ the state’s Constitution must also be observed, wherein it is declared that casino gambling may only be conducted in Atlantic City.
Doubts whether online gambling could meet such location requirements were among the reasons why the Governor vetoed an Internet gambling proposal two years ago. Since then a number of legal experts have opined on the issue, stating that simply placing all of the required hardware in Atlantic City would be sufficient.
It is not yet clear whether Christie has changed his mind since 2011, and he is not expected to announce his decision before the legal deadline in about a week. Consequently, the union’s statement may have come just in time to contribute to the decision making process.
Their concern is of course one of job security, which would only be achieved if the casinos can stay afloat. The union stance is that revenues from mobile casinos could provide a much needed lifeline for several of the city’s casinos.
“In the past several years, Atlantic City has suffered as the result of increased competition from neighboring states,” said Unite-HERE local president Bob McDevitt.
“Gaming revenues have declined by 40 percent, causing reduced tax revenue for programs that support New Jersey’s seniors, fewer jobs and reduced wages for casino workers as the casinos need fewer employees to staff the facilities. The Internet gaming bill gives New Jersey the opportunity to change that,” added the union leader.
McDevitt also referred to studies that expect NJ online gambling revenues to be somewhere between USD 650-850 million in the first year, and hitting the USD 1.5 billion mark soon thereafter.
He didn’t leave any doubts about the union position when he said: “We believe that this increased revenue could make the difference between two or more casinos staying open or closing. Keeping those casinos open means saving more than 3,000 jobs. This bill will allow Atlantic City to compete more effectively, increase tax revenues and save thousands of jobs.”