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New Jersey is home to Atlantic City, one of the top gambling destinations in the United States. Atlantic City’s casinos rake in an average of $200–300 million a month.

Why then, you may wonder, did New Jersey legalize online gambling in 2013 when it already had such a lucrative association with physical casinos? Why did legislators feel the need to add online gambling to their menu of available gambling opportunities?

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Why Did They Legalize Online Gambling in New Jersey?A Legal Loophole

At the turn of the 21st century, the growth of online gambling created a legal conundrum in the United States. In general, online gambling was legal because there was no law that technically forbid it.

Even states that had anti-gambling laws on the books didn’t have specific prohibitions against online gambling, as it was a completely new industry not foreseen by previous generations of lawmakers. To complicate matters, betting across state lines was prohibited by the Federal Wire Act. This created legal confusion.

A Billion-Dollar Gambling Industry

The main reason New Jersey legalized online gambling, of course, was to make money.

Online gambling is incredibly lucrative. Before it became legal in New Jersey, the state only allowed casino gambling in Atlantic City. This was understandably limiting, requiring travel and accommodations.

While there are plenty of excellent casinos, hotels, and restaurants in the city, requiring people to physically be there in person to gamble does represent a barrier to access for a large percentage of the population interested in gambling.

Thwarting Black Market Gaming

There were other reasons for New Jersey to consider legalizing online gambling, apart from the money-making opportunities.

In the early 21st century, there was already a large online gambling market in other countries, including Europe. This availability of gaming outside the United States through the Internet created a black market in online gambling that was growing in size every year – and it was completely unregulated and untaxed at the time. It did not take long for state legislators to recognize how much money their states were losing out on.

Thwarting Black Market Gaming

There were other reasons for New Jersey to consider legalizing online gambling, apart from the money-making opportunities.

In the early 21st century, there was already a large online gambling market in other countries, including Europe. This availability of gaming outside the United States through the Internet created a black market in online gambling that was growing in size every year – and it was completely unregulated and untaxed at the time. It did not take long for state legislators to recognize how much money their states were losing out on.

The First Online Gambling Bill

In late 2010, New Jersey senator Raymond Lesniak sponsored a bill that would allow online gambling by any resident of the state who was over the age of 21.

The bill specified that the online servers for the gambling websites would be located within Atlantic City’s licensed casinos so it would work within the existing gambling legislation set by state law.

It also worked around any federal concerns by making sure only bets placed within the state would be allowed.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the legislation in early 2011 over concerns it would allow other businesses, such as nightclubs, to run online gambling sites.

Later that year, new legislation was drafted to address that concern, limiting the location of online gambling and their advertising to only Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey’s New Gambling Law

In February 2013 the new bill was approved and signed into law, and New Jersey became the second state after Delaware to make online gambling legal.

New Jersey’s new gambling law allowed online casino gambling for a ten-year trial period, and it set a 15% tax rate on online casino revenue. The first online gambling sites opened that November.

Massive Profits

At the time the law to legalize online gambling passed, officials estimated the new industry would provide a casino with additional annual revenue of up to $400 million per year.

Within the first month of legal online gambling, the five existing license holders made just under a million dollars in revenue and generated just under $150,000 for the state in taxation.

Within five years, there were twelve online casino brands offering customers in New Jersey hundreds of options for online gambling, with a wide variety of available games.

It was estimated that in that time New Jersey gained more than $100 million in tax revenue from its new online gambling industry.

By 2017, revenue from online casinos exceeded that of some of the physical casinos in Atlantic City, with monthly gains well into the millions of dollars.

Passing a Billion Dollars in Revenue

In October 2018, New Jersey’s two dozen online gambling sites saw their largest month yet, making nearly $27 million in revenue in that month alone, generating more than $4 million in taxes for the state.

The year-to-date revenue by that October was edging up towards $250 million, and the overall revenue in the state hit the billion-dollar mark in December.

Today, New Jersey is considered the model for regulating online gambling. The state has a large population, a history of casino gambling, and an organizational infrastructure that has made online gambling a huge success.