ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Donald Trump sees money _ lots of it _ flowing away from him. That, he said, needs to change.
The real estate mogul and founder of an Atlantic City casino company says the United States should legalize Internet gambling. The company that bears his name, Trump Entertainment Resorts, is moving forward with plans to establish an online betting venture as soon as it's legal.
The company says it wants to get in on the ground floor of the Internet gambling business, and is close to selecting a joint venture partner to run an online gambling operation. The idea is to be well-placed and ready to go as soon as such activity is legalized in the United States.
"It should be approved here," Trump told The Associated Press on Thursday. "An awful lot of money is leaving the U.S. that should and could stay in this country."
Trump Entertainment, which includes Donald Trump and daughter, Ivanka, and the Avenue Capital hedge fund, would own 10 percent of the new venture.
Donald Trump said the key to success in the online gambling market is having the best brand.
"We think we have the hottest brand there is, the Trump brand, my personal brand," he said. "We think it's going to do phenomenally well."
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Trump Entertainment said it has "determined that such a joint venture represents the most advantageous way for the company to participate in opportunities in online gaming at minimal cost to the company."
No cost estimates were given, and Robert Griffin, the company's CEO, declined to comment Thursday. But in March, after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill passed by New Jersey lawmakers that would have allowed Internet betting solely within New Jersey's borders, Griffin said the money lost to offshore operators should benefit New Jersey.
The law would have made New Jersey the first state in the nation to allow Internet betting.
"Currently, millions of Americans engage in online gaming with illegal offshore operators, and do so with no oversight, no regulation or no consumer protections," Griffin said at the time. "It makes sense for the state of New Jersey to regulate this activity, enforce strict standards to ensure games are fair and safe, and in turn be able to collect tax revenue instead of having those dollars and the jobs they support leaving New Jersey and going illegally overseas."
Christie said he vetoed the law fearing it was unconstitutional and could lead to an explosion of betting parlors throughout the state. By law, gambling in New Jersey is restricted to Atlantic City.
But a New Jersey lawmaker is asserting that individual states have the legal right to offer in-state Internet gambling within their own borders.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, wrote in July to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asserting that New Jersey and all other states can legally offer online betting within their borders.
Lesniak said he will introduce legislation in November to address the main concerns expressed by Christie.
The filing said the company, Donald and Ivanka Trump, and Avenue Capital have signed an agreement authorizing the joint venture once it becomes legal, and that prohibits any of them from seeking other online gambling ventures through May 2012.
Atlantic City is in the midst of a nearly five-year revenue slump brought on by increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states, and worsened by the continuing unsteady economy.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
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