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New Jersey pols fear Trump will ban online gambling

Posted at 8:30 PM, Jan 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-27 20:31:25-05

HOBOKEN, N.J. — New Jersey is now benefiting financially from its decision to allow gambling online, but legislators and gamers in the Garden State are now nervous, thanks to new developments related to the incoming administration of President Donald Trump. In response, both houses of the New Jersey state legislature are now considering a joint resolution that would discourage the new president from shutting down the state's lucrative online gambling businesses.

The way in which the state's legalization of online gambling benefits some gamers can be seen in the case of Brandon Shane. Like many people, Shane, 31, makes his living sitting in front of a computer, carrying out transactions. He's not doing inventory or writing reports, however. He's playing poker.

"I work early in the morning," he said. "Then, in the middle of the day, I go and get lunch, maybe hang out with friends in town. Then come home at night, [and] see where the games are."

Shane is all in. He moved last year from Ohio to New Jersey, one of only three states where online gambling is legal, so he could legally play any time during the day or night.

"It's been about an average of about $10,000 per month," he said about his online winnings. "So yeah, hitting the six figure mark last year felt pretty good. It was nice."

His lifestyle and livelihood may now be in jeopardy, however, if certain policies are adopted by the new administration.

"Atlantic City has seen some devastating times," said State Senator Raymond Lesniak, "and the money that it generates has helped them stay open, and keep jobs."

Lesniak, a Democrat from Elizabeth and a candidate for governor, wrote the legislation that made online gambling legal in the Garden State. He's now advocating for it to stay that way, and points out that two people close to the new president could try to change that: Jeff Sessions, who's expected to be confirmed as attorney general, made statements against online gambling in his confirmation testimony.

Also, Sheldon Adelson, who's made billions from his casino empire, has made it very clear he wants to keep gambling off the web and in his casinos.

"He's already hurt us and he'll try to hurt us again," said Lesniak. His advice to both Adelson and Sessions was to the point. "Stay out of New Jersey's business," he said.

Many of Jersey's online games are connected to casinos in Atlantic City, which profit from the gambling on the web associated with them. The connection allowed the ailing Atlantic City casinos to increase their revenues last year, the first time that's happened in a decade. Online gaming in New Jersey brought in nearly $200 million to the casinos.

Ironically, that kind of growth, which legislators say saves jobs, would dry up if the Trump Administration shuts down New Jersey's online gaming. More ironic still, it would cause professional online gamblers like Shane to move their careers offshore.

"If I wanted to continue playing poker professionally," Shane said, "moving out of the country would be probably the most reasonable thing to do." He said that he had several friends who'd already done so.

Meanwhile, state legislators consider the joint resolution before them. While it would send a message to the president and to Washington, it would not be legally binding in any way for Congress or the White House.