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More on Christie’s Veto of the New Jersey Intrastate Bill—The Hang Ups

4 March 2011 by admin

Yesterday saw at least the initial failure for a state to legalize and regulate online gambling when Governor Chris Christie vetoed the intrastate bill proposed by Senator Raymond Lesniak. But there is still hope!

If Christie had flat out vetoed the intrastate gambling bill, it would have gone back to the House and Senate for another vote. At that point, it would have been likely for State representatives and senators to split into their own party camps; And with a Republican majority, the bill would have likely died.

But that may very well not be the future of New Jersey’s bid to become the first U.S. State to legalize online gambling. Christie’s veto was a conditional veto, meaning he is sending it back to legislatures with notes on things that they could work on so that he might sign it.

Either Christie really does want his state to be the first to offer online gambling and to set itself up as the Silicon Valley of US online gambling (as the chair lobbyist of iMEGA Joe Brennan Jr. put it), or Christie is merely using the conditional veto as a means of buying himself time to see whether or not he will be named to go on the 2012 Republican ticket. His conditional veto does not give away his actual feelings on the subject since the veto was on the grounds of some legal hurdles and not an ‘online gambling will send you straight to hell’ sort of reason.

So. Onto Christie’s reasons behind his conditional veto.

First off, Christie is none too impressed with the idea that any business would be able to set up an online gambling shop anywhere in the state. Considering that it is in the New Jersey constitution that Atlantic City has the monopoly on all gambling in the state, Christie is not fond of the idea that anyone—clubs, bars, etc—could offer online gambling.

“Nothing contained in the legislation would prohibit commercial establishments outside of Atlantic City such as nightclubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and amusement parks form offering Internet gambling opportunities in order to attract patrons or customers, potentially leading to the creation of commercial gambling locations outside of Atlantic City. Any effort to expand casino gambling outside of Atlantic City must be supported by [constitutional] referendum,” said Christie.

And Christie does have a point. A major component to his run for governor was to revitalize Atlantic City since a good chunk of state revenue comes in through the brick and mortar casinos, hence the state monopoly on it. And Christie has passed some bills to help revitalize good ol’ Atlantic City, but setting up an online gambling infrastructure there would go a lot further. But without any boundaries set to keep operations based in Atlantic City, the bill would then undermine the monopoly.

This concern of Christie’s may however be a source of conflict between the governor and Lesniak. Lesniak has said in response to Christie’s note on the lack of infrastructure restrictions, “I am willing to work with the governor to address his legitimate concerns, but our constitution no more requires a constitutional amendment for online gambling than it does for the millionaires’ tax or women’s health care funding.”

I beg to differ on this point. Considering how much revenue comes in from Atlantic City, safeguarding its monopoly is highly important. And while I would like to see online gambling established in New Jersey, the prudency on Christie’s part in this instance should be applauded.

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