Will Online Gambling Come to New Jersey? Probably.

People involved in illegal online gambling operations may find the market for their services shrinking in New Jersey if the state legalizes online gaming. Numerous bills have been entered in an effort to recoup some of the losses experienced by the state when neighboring Pennsylvania and nearby Connecticut legalized some forms of gambling. Competition has not been good for New Jersey, and many state officials hope that legal online gambling will help fill the gap created by other gambling venues.

If the current bill before the Legislature passes, Internet gambling would still be tightly controlled. Only state residents could play, and they would need to be within state borders when playing. The computer equipment used to manage online gaming would have to be located in Atlantic City to shore up that city's declining role as a gambling venue. The games would be limited to poker, blackjack and baccarat. Sports betting would still be illegal in New Jersey.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill last year, saying that he wanted to "get it right."

Although the governor and Legislature have been moving slowly, other players have lost no time trying to position themselves to take advantage of new laws when they pass. For example, the online casino operator PokerStars has entered into talks to purchase a bricks and mortar casino in Atlantic City in hopes that it will be in the right place to enter the online gaming market when it opens. PokerStars, which operates online and land-based gaming businesses throughout the world, has until recently been unable to conduct business in the United States because of its alleged violations of federal gaming laws.

Recent court rulings and Justice Department opinions have opened the door to online gambling, reversing a decades-old opposition to online gaming, especially online poker.

Online gambling has attracted other states. Nevada and the District of Columbia have legalized online gambling, but have yet to implement it. California and Iowa are seriously considering online gambling as a way to boost revenues in an era of budget cutting.

Not everyone is thrilled about the possibility of legal online gambling. Indian tribes, which operate casinos throughout much of the United States, stand to lose if they are forced to compete, at least at first. State lotteries are another potential loser if online gambling appears. And, of course, bricks and mortar casinos may prove to be the biggest losers.

However, it is almost certain that online gambling will not only be legal, but will flourish in states where the law allows it. One thing is sure: There is no longer any federal prohibition against most forms of intrastate online gambling. It is up to states like New Jersey to seize the opportunity.

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