New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Conditionally Vetoes Online Gaming Bill
After what was an agonizing 45 day wait for its proponents, Governor Chris Christie of the state of New Jersey has conditionally vetoed legislation that would have made the state only the third in the U. S. to license and regulate online gaming and poker.
In a press release this afternoon from the Governor’s Office in Trenton, Christie – who used the full extent of his gubernatorial powers in debating the issue – did veto the measure, but gave its supporters some reason for hope. With his conditional veto, Christie also issued some areas of improvement, including raising the taxation rates (from ten percent to fifteen percent) and introduce a clause that will allow the state government to reexamine the subject within a ten year timeframe. According to John Brennan of NorthJersey.com, State Senator Ray Lesniak has stated that these ideas from Christie will be incorporated and approval of the new online gaming bill will happen “in a matter of weeks.”
Governor Christie stated in the press release, “This bill represents an important policy decision for the residents of New Jersey, and a historic opportunity to continue the State’s leadership as a premiere destination for tourism and entertainment. Such a significant step must be carefully considered, balancing the benefits of job creation, economic development, and the continued revitalization of Atlantic City against the risks of addiction, corruption and improper influence. It is my duty as Governor to make these determinations, always mindful of my duty to guarantee the continued welfare of our families, our neighbors, and the future generations who will call our State home.”
In addition to the taxation and “sunset clause” that Governor Christie suggested, he also wants to see other additional protections in the next version of a New Jersey online gaming bill. Prohibitions against casino and state regulatory agencies playing on any New Jersey site, funding for treatment of problem gaming and disclosure of connections with companies seeking or holding online gaming licenses by elected officials were also among the suggestions made by Governor Christie to improve Assembly Bill 2578.
The “conditional veto” is an improvement from Governor Christie over his past handling of online gaming legislation in the state. In 2011, Governor Christie fully vetoed online gaming legislation sent to him by the New Jersey legislature, but he seemingly changed his mind after the U. S. Department of Justice issued its stance on its usage of the Wire Act in December of that same year.
By early 2012, Governor Christie was a huge proponent of online gaming, even to the point of stating, “Everyone should know I am behind this.” As Christie juggled his potential in the Republican Party, state legislators passed Assembly Bill 2578 at Christmas last year and forwarded the bill onto the Governor for his consideration. Much as he did in 2011, Christie used his entire 45 day deliberation period before today’s action.
The Poker Players Alliance, which had been a key advocate for the passage of the bill and had met with Governor Christie’s staff, as recently as last week, issued a statement following Christie’s conditional veto. “(We) commend Governor Christie for his decision to establish New Jersey as a leader in online gaming…through his conditional veto, Governor Christie expressed his support for online gaming legislation, AB2578, but outlined a series of amendments the legislature will need to approve before the bill can become law.”
“Today, Governor Christie took a critical step towards rebuilding New Jersey’s economy and establishing strong standards so that internet gaming will be enjoyed responsibly,” PPA Executive Director John Pappas stated. “While there is some work yet to do, we believe this is a victory for New Jersey residents.”
There has been no timetable set for reconsideration of AB2578 (other than Senator Lesniak’s “matter of weeks” statement), so the situation is far from over in the state of New Jersey.
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