ayor Lorenzo Langford, however, said he thinks the bill's "good outweighs the bad" and he would support it. Mark Juliano, CEO of the three Trump Entertainment Resorts casinos, said the legislation appears to allow the racetracks to get video lottery terminals. Atlantic City's gaming industry has vigorously opposed attempts by the tracks to operate slot machine-like terminals, saying they would greatly increase competition for gambling customers. "Anything that would include VLTs would not be something we would support or be interested in," Juliano said.
The bill would require that equipment used for Internet gambling to be located in an Atlantic City casino hotel or in a secure area outside of a casino, "but within the territorial limits of Atlantic County."
However, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission could also allow the racetracks to have "terminals" for Internet gambling. "Terminals located at racetracks may be identical in appearance to slot machines located at casinos," the bill says.
Stephen D. Schrier, chairman of the casino law section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, questioned whether that part of the legislation would violate the state Constitution, which limits casino gambling to Atlantic City. "If we're talking about slot machines or VLTs outside of Atlantic City, I would have trouble seeing how that would be legal under the New Jersey Constitution," he said.
The casinos are currently paying us$ 90 million to New Jersey's horseracing industry as part of a three-year agreement that bans VLTs at the tracks. Under the proposed legislation, the horseracing industry would receive a cut of the revenue generated by a 20 % annual state tax on Internet gambling.
The new bill, sponsored by state Senator Raymond Lesniak, would allow Atlantic City's casinos to offer Internet gambling to New Jersey residents. Internet gambling is banned in the United States. However, Lesniak believes a recent federal appeals court ruling that struck down the broad legalization of online wagering opened the door for states to have their own Internet gambling.
"The court said such activities must be restricted within the borders of a state," Lesniak said. "We would restrict the games to New Jersey residents." Atlantic City's top two elected officials were divided about the Lesniak bill.
City Council President William Marsh fears that customers would stay away from Atlantic City if they have the option of gambling on poker, blackjack, roulette, craps and other games on their computers. "If I gamble from home, why am I going to pay to travel and stay at a hotel and all that in Atlantic City?" Marsh asked rhetorically.
Langford said he would support the legislation, although he acknowledged the possibility of a new industry keeping potential visitors at home. He said there are enough attractions in Atlantic City to keep tourists coming back.
"There are other reasons why folk come to Atlantic City," Langford said, mentioning such things as restaurants and entertainment. "You can't do all that from the computer. We would have to weigh the good with the bad. I think the good outweighs the bad."
Joseph A. Corbo Jr., president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, the gaming industry's trade group, declined to comment on the Internet gambling bill. He said it is an issue for individual casinos to comment on. Except for Juliano, other casino operators either declined to comment or could not be reached Monday.