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Should Lesniak Keep Pursuing Internet Casinos? A Look at What Happened to the New Jersey Bill

2 August 2011 by admin

Go back about five or six months and New Jersey was all over the news with their bill to regulate intrastate online casinos. The bill, written by Senator Ray Lesniak, would have tied the Atlantic City land casinos to online casino operators in an effort to give new life, and revenue, to the land casinos which would have in turn give more revenue to New Jersey itself.

But the bill did not pass. Well it passed in the state Assembly and state Senate, but it was stopped at Governor Chris Christie’s desk with what is being called a conditional veto. Many view it as Christie trying to walk a tight line. On one hand he promised New Jersey that he would work to revitalize Atlantic City since a large chunk of the state’s revenue came from the famous East Cost casinos, which had been sliding down the revenue slope in the recession. But on the other hand Christie is a Republican, and the Republican Party frowns on online gambling. Christie is a hopeful for either a 2012 or 2016 run at the White House, but passing a bill that would make his state the first to offer intrastate online casinos, something Republicans as a whole do not want, would remove him from any presidential possibility. So he choose to walk a tight line, saying that while he was not opposed to online gambling and online casinos, he had some concerns about the bill. Hence the veto.

But Lesniak is not a man to give up on something he truly believes will benefit his state. Early he wrote a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder that states did have the power to regulate online casinos within their borders. He cited that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) did not prohibit states from intrastate regulation; that if the Department of Justice was set to prosecute online gambling operations in the US then they had better gear up to prosecute the thirty seven states that offer online horse race betting and the Nevada Gaming Board for offering remote online gambling for their casinos.

Lesniak has also addressed the two points in his previous bill that Christie said he was concerned over in hopes of getting the bill passed the next time around. But would it be better for Lesniak to hold off and wait for a different New Jersey governor? After all the reasons for Christie’s veto are transparent enough for most to see his political aspirations as a part of the reason for the veto. If that is the case, then Lesniak’s bill for intrastate online casinos is already doomed as it would be likely for Christie to veto this new bill to maintain his position in the Republican Party as a future presidential hopeful. But I have to hand it to Lesniak for not giving up.

We are bound to hear more about New Jersey and round two of their attempt to regulate online casinos within their state as we go into next year. Lesniak may not get a response from Holder, but his letter did something else, and perhaps this is what he intended: to show the American people that we already have some online gambling here that is considered acceptable; why not extend it and generate some more revenue?

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