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Poker news | Aug 07, 2020

New Jersey Lawmaker Seeks to Add Poker to Racetracks

By RTR Dennis

665x200 aug20 racetracks
New Jersey has long offered legal poker through Atlantic City casinos. However, one lawmaker in the Garden State is now seeking to add poker rooms to the state’s horse racing tracks.

Proposed by Republican Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, Bill A4365 would remove certain restrictions from the game. Specifically, it would classify poker as “a game of bluff and skill.”

Such a designation would move poker out of the pure gambling category and into a skill-based group. Furthermore, it would allow establishments outside of Atlantic City to offer the game legally.

What’s the Current Status Revolving New Jersey Poker?

The New Jersey state constitution designates Atlantic City as the only spot where poker and casino games can take place. Therefore, racetracks and other venues can’t currently feature poker tables.

Dancer wants horse tracks in various parts of the state, though, to be allowed to host the game. If passed, his legislation would immediately allow legal poker games to be held throughout New Jersey without a voter referendum.

It would also include the following provisions:

• The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE)—not the NJ Racing Commission—would oversee the track-based cardrooms.
• The DGE would be tasked with adopting regulations and issuing licenses to the new poker rooms.
• Racetracks like Monmouth Park (Oceanport) and Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment (East Rutherford) would be eligible to offer poker.
• Operators would be allowed to take rake from games.
• All players must be 21 years old (just like in Atlantic City).

Does This Bill Have a Chance of Passing?

Dancer recently filed A4365 with the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. If the bill makes it out of this committee, then it can advance towards the state houses.

The Assemblyman is hoping that establishments like Monmouth Park and Meadowlands Racing will eventually be able to add poker to their offerings. Both tracks already feature sports betting in addition to horse races.

This isn’t the first time that Dancer has tried opening up poker to more of the state. His first such bill came in 2016, and he’s released multiple other pieces of legislation ever since. None of Dancer’s poker bills have advanced past the committee level.

Besides his lack of success regarding this measure so far, Dancer must also deal with COVID-19. This pandemic has limited Atlantic City casinos ever since they reopened in July 2.

State officials have forced casinos to remain at 25% capacity or lower. They’ve also banned live poker games until they feel that the pandemic has slowed considerably.

The legislature may not feel that now is the best time to consider widescale changes to the state’s gambling market. Instead, the state’s focus is mainly on slowly getting both gambling and non-gambling businesses back to full capacity.

How long this goal takes remains to be seen. In the meantime, Assemblyman Dancer’s bill to expand New Jersey poker seems very unlikely to pass right now.