New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph Caputo’s bill would impose much stricter regulatory requirements on Internet gaming companies, and it has already passed through the State Assembly’s Tourism, Gaming and Arts Committee, though passage of the bill by the full Assembly and the State Senate is still considered a long shot.
The bill, which was sponsored by Caputo (D-Essex County), would require all online gambling companies to hold casino licenses, something that would lead to a much more extensive process than these companies currently face to receive Internet gaming licenses.
Caputo hasn’t been a big fan of online gambling in New Jersey, having been one of only five members of the Assembly to vote against approving Internet gaming last year. The former Atlantic City casino executive isn’t looking to ban the games by any stretch, but has made it clear that he thinks that more regulatory oversight is required.
“You’re not selling linens, you’re not selling cups, you’re operating an Internet casino and the integrity of those games has to be on the same level as casino gaming,” Caputo told The Press of Atlantic City.
Right now, all online gambling sites in New Jersey do have the same oversight as casinos, but only indirectly.
Internet gaming companies must receive a Casino Service Industry Enterprise (CISE) license, which requires a background check and investigation by the Department of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). That’s less than the full public hearings that have been required of those who want to receive casino licenses.
However, each iGaming company in New Jersey must be paired with a land-based casino, one that has gone through those stricter requirements.
In addition, the DGE investigation is a thorough process in its own right, requiring very long forms and extensive questioning of applicants. There’s no guarantee of being approved, as was shown when PokerStars was rejected by regulators when the initial applications were taken last year.
PokerStars may also happen to be the primary target of Caputo’s legislation. In an op-ed Caputo wrote for NJ.com in August, he shared his fears of allowing “disgraced online gambling giant” PokerStars back into the state under the new ownership of Amaya Gaming.
“New ownership aside, of all the online gambling outfits hoping to get a piece of the New Jersey pie, PokerStars’ hands may be the dirtiest,” Caputo wrote. “PokerStars’ attempt to brand itself with new ownership doesn’t negate the company’s checkered history.”
Caputo went on to say that even if Amaya was clean itself, it was taking advantage of the assets and position PokerStars gained while operating illegally in the United States.
“To allow Amaya, which may be a legitimate company, to simply purchase assets an people that are the fruits of the poisonous tee — an enterprise that drew indictments from federal law enforcement while profiting handsomely — and let them operate in New Jerey would be an insult to everyone who has gone under scrutiny to work or do business in the casino industry over the past 30 years,” he continued.
But while Caputo’s bill might spell serious trouble for PokerStars, it seems unlikely that it will pass into law. There is no companion bill in the New Jersey State Senate as of yet, and when asked on Twitter about the chances of the bill passing, State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union County) was blunt.
“Somewhere between zero and zero,” Lesniak replied.