ports betting could be on the horizon, and the state is moving toward asserting more control over the nation's second-largest gambling market to try and revive its sagging fortunes.
Both houses of the legislature approved a bill that would allow a casino to open with as few as 200 hotel rooms, down from the current 500-room minimum, and about a tenth of the 2,000 rooms that the city's most successful casinos offer.
The bill also provides for a second new casino to initially open with 200 rooms, and expand to 500 rooms within five years. The Seminole tribe of Florida, through its Hard Rock franchise, plans to build such a casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk if the bill becomes law. The measure now goes to Governor Chris Christie. A spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.
But Senator James Whelan, the Democratic former mayor of Atlantic City who proposed the bill, said "all indications are" that Christie will sign it into law. "No Republicans voted against it in either house," he said. "That's pretty indicative."
Also Monday, the Senate approved a bill that would allow Internet betting by New Jersey residents, and people from foreign countries. "Sophisticated software" on servers housed in Atlantic City casinos would make sure only New Jersey residents or foreigners would be able to place bets, Senator Ray Lesniak said.
Measures aimed at helping the struggling horse racing industry were approved by the Senate as well. They include expanding off-track betting and setting up exchange wagering, a type of online betting popular in Europe in which two or more people place directly opposing wagers on the outcome of a horse race.
Earlier in the day, a Senate committee urged the legislature to allow voters to decide whether sports betting should be allowed at the state's casinos and racetracks.