New Jersey Internet Poker Legislation In Limbo
According to a report in a prominent Pennsylvania newspaper, the legislation that would open up the state of New Jersey for internet gaming and poker is now in limbo, apparently due to the politics of the 2012 Presidential election.
In an extensive article, Philadelphia Inquirer writer Suzette Parmley reports that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appears to be backing off his previous statements that he would sign legislation that would open up the Garden State for online poker, other casino gaming and perhaps even sports betting. Quoting the sponsor of the bill in the New Jersey legislature, Parmley states that “with his political stock rising,” Gov. Christie is apparently unwilling to take a political step that may derail his ambitions.
New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak, who is the sponsor of the proposed internet gaming legislation, is quoted by Parmley after a meeting with Gov. Christie’s staff as saying, “Christie is putting the future of Atlantic City in jeopardy because of his overriding concern for support” from several areas of not only the “brick and mortar” casino industry but also the National Football League.
According to Lesniak, a meeting on April 27 that was thought to be simply to discuss minor changes to the bill became a roadblock. “We were told,” Parmley quotes Lesniak as saying, “that the Atlantic City casinos have not made the case that internet gaming is good for them. Senator (James) Whelan (a fellow New Jersey senator behind the gaming bill) and I were stunned.” Whelan backs up Lesniak’s recounting of the short meeting, saying to Parmley, “I got mixed signals (from the Governor’s office).”
Lesniak cited three persons or organizations in particular in Parmley’s article that could be causing the slowdown: Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chief Executive Officer who was the major financier of the now-defunct presidential campaign of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; Caesars Entertainment, which owns casino properties in Atlantic City; and Woody Johnson, the owner of the NFL’s New York Jets. Parmley also states that it is the potential future for Gov. Christie in the political realm that could be causing the internet gaming question to fall into limbo.
Gov. Christie has been one of the names that have been floated by politicos as a potential vice presidential nominee, on the ticket with presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. As such, it is alleged that Gov. Christie doesn’t want to take a controversial stand by passing internet gaming legislation that could potentially offend such key supporters in a presidential run. If Gov. Christie wasn’t the nominee for vice president, it is also possible that he could take a key position in a presumed Romney cabinet.
Mr. Adelson has consistently held an anti-online gambling stance, even though the Las Vegas Sands Corp. continues to put up casino properties around the world. Parmley points out recent comments by Adelson to the Las Vegas Sun, where Adelson said that “you don’t want a casino in every home” and added that the land-based casino industry would see a 10-20% decrease in action if internet gaming was introduced.
The Caesars Entertainment opposition is a bit more difficult to figure out. A proponent of the intrastate system in Nevada (which looks to be on track for a late-2012 start), the signals are murky as to why Caesars wouldn’t support such activity in New Jersey. Mr. Johnson’s anti-gaming stance is easy to determine, as the NFL has a long-standing policy against internet gaming, especially online sports betting.
Last summer, Gov. Christie vetoed an internet gaming and poker bill, saying at the time that he didn’t believe that the industry’s servers could be concentrated in Atlantic City, which he deemed important. After the U. S. Department of Justice issued their December 2011 decision that the Wire Act of 1961 only applied to sports betting, Gov. Christie seemed to change his stance, saying in January, “I think New Jersey should be in that business (of online gaming).” Since that time, as Christie’s political stock has risen, the legislative action has ground to a halt.
The Lesniak bill passed through the Senate last month and it was though that a quick vote – and signature into law by Gov. Christie – would be an afterthought. Instead, the Senate has yet to take a floor vote on the issue and the Assembly has yet to even put comparable legislation into committee, basically derailing the issue at this time.
The allegations by Lesniak are dismissed by the Governor’s office. Asked by Parmley for a comment on the online gaming question, Gov. Christie’s press secretary Michael Drewniak stated, “Democrats criticize us for everything (Lesniak and Whelan are Democratic senators), so what else is new? I don’t feel the need to weigh in (on the subject) at this moment.”
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