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According to recent reports, New Jersey is on the verge of becoming the first state in the union to pass legislation which would legalize online gaming. Backed by Senator Raymond Lesniak, the bill, known as S490, may find itself on the Governor’s desk in the very near future.

This particularly uplifting piece of news comes as an encouragement to a somewhat downtrodden gaming community. Many members of which are still reeling from the death of Barney Frank’s online poker bill.

This remains, however, the first step on a long and winding road. As currently proposed, only those residents within New Jersey’s state borders will be eligible for online play. Beyond worries about stepping on the toes of other state governments, legislators have a more practical reason for this decision — taxes. In order to legalize online play, users must realize that their winnings and losses will be tracked, as will the profits of the gaming corporations who play host to the activities.

Regardless, this is an exciting development in the gaming world. The Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) has released the following lengthy statement, strongly backing this new development:

“Next November, New Jersey voters will now go to the polls and determine the question of state-regulated sportsbetting for themselves. All early indications point to majority support by state residents.

“The votes today demonstrate that there can be a rational and constructive approach toward legalizing and regulating sportsbetting. While New Jersey is the first and boldest in its actions, other states including California, Rhode Island and Missouri as well as the District of Columbia have indicated that they too want to regulate this most common and widely-available form of wagering and to permit their states to benefit from the protections and resulting revenue this would provide.

“This has been a long road but New Jersey lawmakers see the sense in permitting and regulating sports wagering. State regulators would do an infinitely better job of protecting the integrity of our games by bringing this vast underground economy into the light. Consumers will be protected from fraud and the state will realise its fair share from the trade in the form of tax proceeds.

“The opponents of state-regulated sportsbetting have a difficult time convincing legislators that the status quo is acceptable. Not regulating a financial market of more than $500 billion is an invitation to corruption not the prevention of corruption.

“Professional sports leagues, the NFL chief among them, are run by very intelligent individuals that maintain tight control over their games to ensure quality. State regulation of sportsbetting is an extension of that ‘quality control’. It’s the rational approach.

“We applaud the exceptional efforts of State Senator Raymond Lesniak, the sportsbetting bill’s principal author and champion, along with State Senator James Whelan of the Senate Gaming Committee and Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Ralph Caputo of the Assembly Gaming Committee. Without their stewardship, the voters would not be able to make their own determination regarding sportsbetting in New Jersey.”