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Christie Vetoes Online Gambling Bill for New Jersey

3 March 2011 by admin

The conservative Republican base was tickled pink this afternoon when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill that would bring intrastate gambling to his state. This is after he promised in his run for governor that he would do what it took to revitalize Atlantic City. The bill, proposed by Senator Raymond Lesniak, would have made United States history as it would have made New Jersey the first state in the country to legalize and regulate online gambling and side step the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

But in true politician fanfare to make the most of the limelight on a bill which has garnered a great deal of media attention, Christie called a press conference before announcing that he was vetoing the bill. His reason for not signing? “I have got to make sure that if I were to sign something like that it would be legal and constitutional.”

But here is the thing—the New Jersey bill would have allowed residents of New Jersey to play in online casinos partnered with the brick and mortar casinos in Atlantic City. The issue there is that it would have involved interaction between a state and the international community since there are no US-run online casinos…yet. I will maintain that ‘yet’ because it is perfectly plausible that someday the US will have its own online casinos. Technically this does side step around the US and its dealings on a federal level with the international community, putting New Jersey out there making its own deals outside of the federal circle. So I can see where Christie can say that the bill could be illegal.

On the surface that is Christie’s reason for vetoing the intrastate gambling bill. But I still cannot help wondering if personal political aspirations did not factor into Christie’s decision. After all, the Republican Party had been tossing his name around as a potential for the 2012 Republican ticket.

There was also the opposition coming from Caesar’s Entertainment. The brick and mortar casino giant owns and operates four casinos in Atlantic City. And apparently Caesar’s is quite the foe. They want to see online gambling and regulated as a nation on a federal level as opposed to a state-by-state level. Caesar’s would benefit the most from such an arrangement as they own and operate forty brick and mortar casinos around the US. To them, it would be easier and more profitable to hook all forty casinos up with online casino partners. That and it is estimated that Caesar’s could stand to gain a share of the $5 billion that the online poker industry is estimated to be worth for the US. How big of a share? Why a 20% share for Caesar’s. So they are not biased at all.

But there is good news at the end of this tunnel. And really we have not seen the last of Lesniak and his bill to legalize and regulate online gambling for New Jersey. “I know we are going to get it done,” Lesniak said. There is hope and confidence that those who support the bill could make revisions and send the bill back through.

And despite the anti-online gambling stance that Republicans over all seem to favor, there are those in the pro-online gambling camp. John Amodeo is one of them. He is confident in New Jersey having online gambling and in what such a thing could do for the state: “We need to be in the forefront simply because it is going to be the wave of the future. If it went nationally and internationally, we could make a lot.”

As for Christie and his decision to veto the intrastate gambling bill for New Jersey, he may well have cost his state the chance to be the first. Florida, California and Iowa are all moving forward, albeit slowly, towards legalizing and regulating online gambling within their own states. Seeing the blocks that the New Jersey bill encounters could well serve as a tool to overcome the same sorts of hurdles in their own states’ bills. Christie may just have to sit back and watch as other states horn in on his state’s glory while he waits to see if he gets rewarded for his veto by being put on the 2012 ticket.

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