As a result of the previously reported reimposition of United States nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, on October 11, 2018, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released an Advisory that provides casinos, and other financial institutions, updated guidance for identifying possible Iranian related criminal transactions.
Just as the growth of fantasy sports, sweepstakes and online poker were curtailed by the reach of gambling laws, the latest trends in the $138 billion video gaming industry are attracting an increasing level of unsolicited attention from gambling regulators across the globe. Much of this attention is focused on “loot boxes”.
Just days following a proposed amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution proposed in the State Senate and as detailed here , the New Jersey Assembly offered its own proposed Amendment to the Constitution which would also authorize up to two additional casinos in North Jersey.
Both Amendments propose no more the two casinos, each located in different counties and outside a 75 mile radius of Atlantic City. The 75 mile radius restriction eliminates Monmouth Park Racetrack as a possible site for casino expansion.
The primary differences are as follows;
- Applicant eligibility: The Assembly version of the proposed amendment allows one of the two licenses to be awarded to an applicant with no current ownership or ties to an existing Atlantic City casino. The Senate version of the amendment limits eligibility to (1) a currently licensed Atlantic City casino operating as of December 11, 2015; or (2) any person licensed as a principal owner (yet undefined) of a holder of a New Jersey casino license that was operating a casino which was conducting gambling on December 11, 2015 if that principal owner also holds a valid license to own and operate a casino in another jurisdiction with licensing standards similar to those in New Jersey. The Assembly version only applies the Senate version’s proposed eligibility requirements to the “initial license.” The current Atlantic City casino tie-in eligibility requirement presumably does not apply to the second license awarded.
- Tax Allocation to Atlantic City. The Assembly version of the proposed Constitutional Amendment allocates 35% of state tax revenuers from the two new casinos for purposes if the recovery, stabilization or improvement of Atlantic City. The Senate version allocate 49% of such tax revenue for the recovery, stabilization or improvement of Atlantic City.
The Senate and Assembly must agree on an identical version of the proposed Amendment which would have to be approved with 3/5 votes by both houses of the NJ Legislature or majority votes, twice over two years. The votes have to be completed at least 90 days before going on the ballot of a state-wide referendum to amend the NJ State Constitution.
A Proposed Amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution will authorize two additional casinos in the State. The details of the Proposed Amendment are as follows:
- No more than 2 casinos, each one to be located in different counties in State
- New casinos must be located outside a 75 mile radius from Atlantic City.
- Eligibility for the license is limited to:
- (1) a currently licensed Atlantic City casino operating as of December 11, 2015; or
- or (2 ) any person licensed as a principal owner (yet undefined) of a holder of a New Jersey casino license that was operating a casino which was conducting gambling on December 11, 2015 if that principal owner also holds a valid license to own and operate a casino in another jurisdiction with licensing standards similar to those in New Jersey
- Tax rate to be determined in subsequent legislation. 49% of such tax revenue for 15 years is dedicated for recovery , stabilization or improvement of Atlantic City. 2% of tax revenue dedicated to thoroughbred and standardbred horsemen.
- The Resolution has to be approved with 3/5 votes by both houses of the NJ Legislature or majority votes twice over two years. The votes have to be completed at least 90 days before going on the ballot of a state-wide referendum to amend the NJ State Constitution.
A copy of the proposed amendment can be read here: SCR 185.
On February 12, 2014, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Gaming Oversight Committee held a hearing to receive testimony regarding the prospects of legalizing electronic gaming devices, i.e video gaming machines, in the Commonwealth. The hearing focused on gaming along the lines of what was raised in a prior session’s bill, (2014 House Bill No 1932), which sought to legalize video gaming machines for bingo, keno, blackjack and other games for use in establishments with valid liquor licenses, such as restaurants, bars, taverns, hotels and clubs.
With a looming budgetary deficit Pennsylvania legislators are exploring various ways to increase gaming related tax revenue, including potentially moving forward with internet gaming through its existing bricks and mortar casinos. This recent Gaming Oversight Committee hearing revisiting the video gaming machines issue would be another means through which to generate gaming based tax revenue. The hearing’s witnesses touted the jobs and tax revenues generated by Illinois which implemented video gaming machines in bars, restaurants, taverns and truck stops several years ago – (projected IL tax revenues in excess of $250 million in 2015). While Illinois has had success generating tax revenue and producing jobs with its video gaming machine roll out, the machines do compete, on a low end basis with the states’ existing casinos. While local municipalities in Illinois can opt out of the video gaming program that option may not exist in a Pennsylvania bill and opposition from Pennsylvania’s casino industry remains to be seen.
Also, if considering video gaming at bars and taverns Pennsylvania may be well served to learn from some of the mistakes made with the passage of last year’s Tavern games legislation. Tavern games, with its gaming regulatory scrutiny focused on the bars/tavern owners, rather than through the games’ owners and route operators, lead to cost issues and a reluctance to move forward which hampered widespread implementation of tavern gaming. In addition, while Illinois has had relative success with its multi-tiered system of manufacturers, distributors, operators and establishments, that system has one too many layers to operate as effectively as it otherwise could. Few recall Pennsylvania’s short-lived requirement of local suppliers of slot machines layered between the industry’s manufacturers and end user casinos. The removal of the local supplier requirement opened the way to the implementation of Pennsylvania casinos in 2006. Finally the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and its agencies are more than capable of regulating and rolling out video gaming should it become law. Bringing in other, less experienced state agencies, such as Liquor Control or the Department of Revenue would only further complicate and delay implementation should the law pass.