In a victory for online gambling proponents, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie supported most of the online gambling bill. While he did veto portions of it, the language that allowed online poker and casino games survived the veto. Governor Christie vetoed parts of the bill that covered taxes, licensing and problem gambling. It took negotiations through the final minutes to finalize the conditions covered by the veto.
Governor Christie, who previously vetoed a previous bill in its entirety, had already stated concerns about problem gambling. He requested more funding for problem gambling. He also wanted more restrictions in place for employees and executives within state government and full disclosure of past involvement with online gambling for those employees and elected officials. A higher tax rate was also proposed. Governor Christie’s office made a full statement here.
This is great news for poker players hoping for a PokerStars casino in the US. While PokerStars will still need to be licensed in New Jersey, the possibility of a full veto has passed and PokerStars can continue with their US expansion plans. While the New Jersey law would not forbid PokerStars from receiving a license, existing laws and bills in other states would prevent any online gambling site that accepted US players after 2006 from receiving an interactive gaming license.
The bill is expected to be reconsidered by the New Jersey Legislature in the coming weeks and passage is expected by March 18, 2013. This will not mean that online gambling games would be live at that time. Software development and approval in Delaware and Nevada, the only other two states with approved online gambling, are not yet live even though the Nevada Gaming Control Board adopted regulations in December 2011 and Delaware adopted them in June 2012. Live games are still months away in both states.
Governor Christie has been in favor of gambling expansion in New Jersey to help the Atlantic City market fight a six year slide in gaming revenue. He signed a sports betting bill into law in 2012 and is one of the defendants in a legal battle with the major sports leagues and the Department of Justice. Should New Jersey prevail, they would become just one of two states with single game sports betting.
This bill has brought praise from all corners of the gaming spectrum. Atlantic City casinos support this bill, as does most of the New Jersey Legislature. Online gambling proponents that have been forced to fight an uphill battle since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act finally have a reason to celebrate after losing the battle at the federal level in 2012.