Two years ago, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would legalize online casino games for adult-age residents within the state. Anticipation grew rapidly as the bill made its way to the desk of Governor Chris Christie, only to be shot down with a fastidious “VETO” stamp of condemnation. Last Thursday, the senate once more sent an overwhelming message to the governor by passing the online gambling bill once more, this time with the strong support of a 33-3 vote. Again, the anticipation begins to grow, but many fear history will only prove to repeat itself.
The overwhelming majority voted in favor of online gambling in New Jersey on Thursday, December 20. Before going to the senate, just three days prior, an Assembly argued the point and also voted in favor of regulating online gambling, again receiving strong support of 48-25. One of the main arguments for legalized online gambling in New Jersey, according to strong supporters, is that it’s already happening in an illegal format. Why not legalize gambling over the internet, regulating the industry and collecting taxes for the state?
New Jersey’s senate has been competing with the state of Nevada in a race to become the very first US state to offer legal online gambling. California is right alongside them, though Nevada has taken a strong lead, having already passed legislation to proffer online poker in a real-money format. The Nevada Gaming Commission has already approved a multitude of licenses for both gaming operators and software suppliers, but due to setbacks in regulatory framework, it doesn’t appear that any site will be permitted to go live before mid-2013 at the earliest.
Last year, Governor Christie rejected a proposal that aimed to legalize online racebooks. The governor stated that his disapproval lies within the anticipation of excessive advertising. He specifically criticized the likelihood that “internet cafes” would take advantage, showing up all over the state with promotions encouraging gambling. The new bill is would prohibit such public advertising, alleviating Christie’s expressed fears.
The governor’s arguments didn’t stop there, though. Christie states that the legalization of online gambling throughout New Jersey would contradict current laws that disallow gambling establishments (except race betting and lotteries) to operate outside of Atlantic City. Supporters of the bill are maintaining hope that the bill will pass so long as the host servers responsible for facilitating all online betting activities are located within the boundaries of Atlantic City.
Since the bill was amended to address the governor’s sincere concerns, Christie has offered no comments as to whether he might change his mind. A spokesperson for the governor also declined comment.
Tony Rodio, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, now supports the revised proposal, so long as online gambling is “implemented in a lawful, appropriate, thoughtful and prudent fashion. We believe that the pending legislation goes a long way towards fulfilling those objectives.”
Governor Christie has 45 days to decide whether to pass or veto the online gambling bill. The state of New Jersey should have its answer no later than February 4th, 2013.