ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. >> New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a close political ally of President Donald Trump, is urging him and Congress not to ban internet gambling in the United States.
Christie, a fellow Republican, signed a bill today calling on Trump, a former Atlantic City casino owner, and Congress not to enact a nationwide ban on internet gambling.
In an interview last year with The Associated Press during the presidential campaign, Trump declined to take a position on internet gambling, saying “I have a lot of friends on both sides of this issue.”
Online bets have helped revive Atlantic City’s struggling casino industry, which has seen five of its 12 casinos go out of business in the last three years. Last year, backed by money won from gamblers online, Atlantic City’s casinos posted their first revenue increase in a decade.
But threats to internet gambling loom in Congress, and Las Vegas Sands casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a strong financial supporter of Trump, wants it to end. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he wants to take a second look at a Justice Department ruling authorizing internet gambling, and several measures have been proposed but not enacted.
The bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature and signed by Christie says a federal prohibition against internet gambling would negatively impact New Jersey, “dismantling the investments that the state and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate Internet gaming.”
It says the move would take away “economic and employment opportunities already realized” by the state and foreclose the future potential of the industry to “generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos.”
New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware are the only states that offer internet gambling, with New Jersey having the largest market among the three. Several other states are considering legalizing it.
New Jersey began offering internet gambling in November 2013. Since then, online bets have steadily grown and have become a crucial part of Atlantic City casinos’ business models, with nearly $600 million won from gamblers playing online.
Last year, the casinos took in $196.7 million from internet gambling, up more than 32 percent from 2015. The money won from online customers often makes the difference between an up month and a down month for Atlantic City’s casino revenue.