ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Political efforts to defend New Jersey's fledgling Internet gambling industry intensified Tuesday, two days before a test of online betting is to begin in the state.
Casinos and their online technology partners performed last-minute tests Tuesday, and a pro-gambling state senator tried to rally opposition to Las Vegas billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson's plan to try to ban online gambling in the United States.
Sen. Ray Lesniak, who sponsored the law that legalized Internet gambling in New Jersey and said he'll unveil a proposed expansion on Thursday, said that Adelson's campaign would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, billions in revenue to Atlantic City's casinos and hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax revenue.
"We already have given the legal authority for Internet gaming in New Jersey, and state regulators have done a good job in reviewing and authorizing licenses for online gaming businesses," Lesniak said. "Imposing a federal ban on Internet gambling for New Jersey would be an economic catastrophe."
The Washington Post reported last week that Adelson is preparing a public campaign to portray online gambling as a danger to children, the poor and others who could be exploited by easy access to Internet betting. In January, Adelson plans to launch an advocacy group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
Adelson was one of the top donors in last year's presidential elections; he and his wife spent nearly $100 million to help Republicans.
The American Gaming Association, the casino industry's trade group, also opposed Adelson's plans.
"In 2012, Americans spent nearly $3 billion gambling with rogue offshore operators," said Geoff Freeman, the group's president. "The Internet cannot be forced back into the bottle — nor can market demand. We support pragmatism and strong regulation of online gaming that protects consumers, prevents underage play, ensures the integrity of the games and empowers law enforcement."
Several Atlantic City casino executives declined to comment on Adelson's plans Tuesday.
The moves came as Atlantic City casinos and their online partners put the finishing touches on their Internet gambling systems and looked for bugs that needed to be fixed before the start of a five-day invitation-only trial period. If all goes well, online gambling will be available statewide Nov. 26.
PartyPoker.com, the signature brand of bwin.party, is partnered with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. It offered a look Tuesday at its global site, which company officials said is very similar to what New Jersey players will experience starting Thursday.
The site offers live poker in online rooms; card games including blackjack; table games including roulette, and several versions of slot machine games. On Sunday, the site sponsored a poker tournament in which 1,139 people played; the $227,800 prize pool exceeded the $200,000 it had guaranteed.
"This is the type of featured event we hope to develop in New Jersey," said Jeffrey Haas, the site's director of poker.
Once a player registers and puts money into an account, rapid-fire gambling is just a mouse-click away. In the time it takes for a single roulette game at a casino, where players have to buy chips, place them on the table, then wait until dealers collect chips from losing bets and hand out chips for winnings ones, an online gambler can play a dozen games.
The state is also looking forward to a vote by Nevada casino regulators as soon as Thursday that would legalize multi-state slots jackpots — something New Jersey has long wanted.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC