No Override of New Jersey Internet Gambling Bill Veto Expected
Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped a bombshell on our industry by vetoing a bill proposed by State Senator Raymond Lesniak that would have created the first intrastate internet gambling market in the U.S. Now, the online poker industry has had a chance to digest the veto of the bill, which sailed through both chambers of the New Jersey legislature.
Poker News Daily has learned that no override of Christie’s veto is expected. Any override would require a two-thirds vote from the state’s legislature, but Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) Chairman Joe Brennan doesn’t see one coming. Brennan told Poker News Daily on Tuesday, “I think the Governor spoke pretty firmly regarding his sentiments towards the bill. I don’t believe Republicans in the legislature would want to one-up the Governor.”
Christie, who will undergo knee surgery tomorrow, is in the midst of drafting a new bill for referendum in November. If he’s successful, New Jersey residents could vote for or against legalized intrastate internet gambling, which would include web-based forms of brick-and-mortar casino games like poker. The bill could be dropped later in the month.
Despite regulated online poker on the brink of reality in New Jersey, groups like the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) continue to push for a nationwide alternative. In a press release distributed last week, PPA Chairman and former three-term Republican Senator from New York Alfonse D’Amato spoke in favor of a Federal solution.
“We firmly believe that licensing and regulating online poker is the best and most effective way to protect consumers, protect Americans’ internet freedom, and generate much needed revenue,” D’Amato asserted. “However, the PPA also firmly believes that given the borderless nature of the internet, these interests would be best served by Federal legislation that would provide licensing and regulation of interstate poker, as opposed to state-by-state regulation, whereby players in New Jersey could only play with other players in the Garden State.”
Still, given a Republican controlled House of Representatives, a Federal solution has several major hurdles. In an article that appeared last week in the Washington Times, it was revealed that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus has no plans to allow discussion of internet gambling going forward: “If Mr. Bachus addresses internet gambling in the 112th Congress, such action would focus on examining the effectiveness of existing laws and making them tougher.”
Back in New Jersey, Lesniak was looking forward to aiding the state’s fledgling casino and horse racing industries. The Union Democrat told the media last week, “We need to work as quickly as possible to bring this bill back to the Governor’s desk and position Atlantic City to become the Silicon Valley of the high-tech gaming sector. New Jersey can still become the first state in the nation to offer legalized internet wagering, and by leading the way, we position the Garden State to reap the benefits of getting in on the ground floor of a multi-million dollar market.”
Iowa may be giving New Jersey a run for its money, however, as a bill that would allow online poker has advanced to the state’s Senate. The Des Moines Register quoted one lawmaker as saying, “If we don’t make a move now, the Federal Government is going to make a move in the next few years and we’ll lose the revenue to the Federal Government.”
On whether iMEGA will make a push to bring legalized online poker to Iowa, Brennan told Poker News Daily, “We’ve had some initial discussions, but we haven’t made any decisions.”
A referendum appears to be the likely plan of attack in the East Coast state. In his veto, Christie assessed, “Any effort to expand casino gambling outside of Atlantic City must be supported by referendum and, if the legislature believes that expanding gambling outside of Atlantic City is in the best interests of the State of New Jersey, it should place the question on the ballot for the voters to decide.” New Jersey’s election day is November 8th.
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