Governor Chris Christie Offers Opinion On New Jersey Online Gaming Bill
In what may be an indicator of his action on a proposed online gaming and poker bill in his state, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey offered his opinions on the legislation on a New Jersey radio show on Tuesday night.
During the “Ask The Governor” program on the radio station New Jersey 101.5 on Tuesday night, Governor Christie answered Jerseyites questions regarding the state and its operations. After about 40 minutes of the hour-long program, the question of the legislation passed by the New Jersey legislature that would open up online casino gaming and poker for state residents was raised. The governor’s response wasn’t exactly what many who are proponents of the legislation wanted to hear.
“I have to make a decision very soon,” Governor Christie noted, as the bill has been on his desk since just before Christmas and he has a 45 day window to sign the bill into law, veto it or do nothing and have the bill automatically become law. “I haven’t made a final decision yet, but there are two things I’m concerned about.”
“First, I don’t know that it really will help Atlantic City,” continued the governor. “I’m actually concerned that it may drive traffic away from Atlantic City…if people can gamble in their own homes on their laptops, why are they going to go to Atlantic City? I think that is contrary to what we are trying to accomplish here.”
“Second, I’m also really concerned about setting up a whole new generation of addicted gamblers,” Governor Christie concluded. “If you can sit on the edge of your bed with your laptop and gamble away a paycheck, that’s a lot different than making the conscious decision to go down to Atlantic City to a casino.”
If those arguments sound familiar, they should. Governor Christie, facing a similar bill in 2011 from the state legislature, voiced those same concerns when he vetoed the bill. As he is continuing on with that frame of thought, it is believed that Christie will once again veto the bill that was passed through the New Jersey legislature by a commanding margin (the vote in the Senate was 48-25; the General Assembly voted for the bill by a whopping 33-3).
This time around, however, was supposed to be different. After the U. S. Department of Justice stated that the Wire Act of 1961 – which was the linchpin in prosecution of gaming offenses – only applied to sports betting in December 2011, many states began to move forward with their own regulations for the industry, be it full casino gaming or just online poker. After that announcement by the federal government, it seemed that Christie’s views had switched somewhat.
In January 2012, Governor Christie stated his apparent shift on the subject by saying, “Folks should know I favor it, I want to do it. I vetoed the last bill because I felt that it would open up the opportunity for there to be internet gambling houses all over the State of New Jersey. I don’t think that’s what anybody wants. But, I think being able to have this be an Atlantic City centric thing is something that makes sense to me. And given the Justice Department’s go ahead for people to be able to do it, I think we should go ahead and move on it. But, we have to do it in a responsible way and it should be Atlantic City centric.”
As Governor Christie’s political stock rose, however, his drive for online gaming in New Jersey fell by the wayside. After briefly considering a run at President of the United States (he would eventually decide not to enter the race), he was also considered as a potential running mate for eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney. After Romney’s defeat in November of last year, the thoughts of the GOP are moving towards 2016 and this may be why Governor Christie is cooling in his views regarding online gaming.
First off, the Republican platform passed during the GOP Convention last summer had a distinctly anti-online gaming stance as a major plank. Secondly, one of the “power players” in the Republican party – oddly enough, Las Vegas gaming mogul Sheldon Adelson – has a staunch opposition to online gaming and poker. As Mr. Adelson donated an estimated $80 to $100 million to candidates in the 2012 elections (much of it to former candidate Newt Gingrich and Romney) through Super PACs. With Mr. Adelson looking to continue his financial influence on the Republican Party, it wouldn’t behoove a potential 2016 presidential nominee – as Governor Christie is thought to be – to cross such a powerful influence.
The 45 day cutoff window is approximately two weeks away but it does appear that the New Jersey gaming bill may end up the way it did in 2011 – vetoed at the hands of Governor Christie. Although he has stated he hasn’t made a final decision, his comments on New Jersey radio shouldn’t be viewed as an optimistic outlook.
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