New Jersey Legislators Want Internet Cafés

by Kyle Miller

Two racetracks in New Jersey hope to be allowed the opportunity to offer internet café style online gambling to patrons.

Racetracks in the state of New Jersey have been suffering for some time. However, any help was soon shut down after voters decided in November to reject a ballot question that would have allowed for an expansion of gambling outside of Atlantic City. Now it seems legislators are scrambling to find ways to use gambling to bring in much-needed revenues to the state. Racetracks have proposed that internet cafes be allowed so that patrons can enjoy online gambling on site and revenues will be generated in the process.

Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park

Two racetracks of New Jersey, Monmouth Park and Meadowlands Racetrack, were both hoping to be involved in some way with a gambling expansion if the ballot question had been approved. Now, a contingency plan has been created that would provide internet gaming cafes to be set up within both racetrack venues. State lawmakers must give approval before such options would be allowed.

Ronald DancerBack in October, a bill was introduced by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer that would allow the horse racetracks to be open to taking online wagers. The bill, known as Assembly Bill 4255, would provide the state racetracks with the option to enter into an agreement with Atlantic City casinos or a venue’s online gaming affiliate to be able to pursue iGaming.

The bill was put on the shelf during the fall season as voters were busy casting their decision for the casino expansion to the northern region of the state. When this failed to pass, the proposal by Dancer was considered the next best option. Dennis Drazin, an attorney for Monmouth Park, has stated that the bill should pass with ease as there are already people betting on horse racing and the casinos would then have a chance to earn a regular customer that is already gambling.

Problems with the Plan

Despite the plan sounding like a good idea, there are problems that do exist. For starters, land based gaming has to be focused on Atlantic City. Operators are not allowed to offer casino wagering unless physically located in the city. However, the internet cafes would be an online casino gaming option and according to the bill, it argues that since online gambling is already accessible within the entire state, there is no need for voter approval to be given to authorize iGaming cafes to be located at the racetracks. However, opponents of the idea feel that racetracks may decide to allow slot style machines that are technically computers to be installed, a round-about way of skirting the law.

Another issue is whether or not there is an audience for internet café gambling. Players might not readily leave their home to be able to enjoy casino gaming online at the racetrack. However, those who already visit the tracks may be more willing to play online if they have access while enjoying the races. According to Drazin, the cafes would be more of an upscale lounge where gamblers would feel a sense of camaraderie with others.

Impact on Atlantic City

Now the question arises as to what the impact would be on Atlantic City if such gambling were to be added to racetracks. Opponents of the idea feel that the cafes would hurt Atlantic City even further. According to certain reports, online gambling has already hurt visitor numbers to casinos so adding in even more options in other regions would only cause further harm.

It will be interesting to see if Dancer will be able to see his measure move forward and if online gambling via internet cafes will be something that visitors and residents will have access to in the near future.