Online poker players in New Jersey are anxiously laying in wait as Governor Chris Christie examines the merits of an intrastate internet gambling bill that sailed through the state’s legislature five weeks ago. The fate of the industry now rests in Christie’s hands.
According to the New York Post, Christie signing the measure into law appears to be doubtful. The news outlet quoted a source close to the situation as opining, “Christie is being pushed in both directions. My gut tells me he is not going to sign.”
Christie has three options. He can sign the bill into law to create the first intrastate internet gambling framework in the United States. Alternately, he could veto the bill, which would then return to the legislature. Finally, Christie could not act for 45 days, in which case the bill automatically becomes law.
Among those organizations leading the charge for internet gambling in New Jersey is the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA), whose Chairman, Joe Brennan, told Poker News Daily on Friday that he questioned the basis of the Post story.
“Our people just met with the Governor’s office yesterday and they didn’t indicate anything like this,” Brennan said about the article. “I don’t know why anyone would be going to the press with this story when I think it’s not indicative of anything going on. As far as we can tell, the Governor doesn’t feel like he’s under pressure. He wants to make sure they’re satisfied on all fronts.”
The Post quoted the same source as saying that Caesars Entertainment has been calling for the bill to be vetoed in favor of a nationwide solution. The article explained, “Caesars believes that New Jersey is getting in the way of potential Federal legislation legalizing online gaming, the source noted. It believes the Federal measure is a bigger priority.”
New Jersey is facing a budget deficit that could top $10 billion. According to a press release distributed on Wednesday, up to 57,000 jobs could be created as a result of the internet gambling bill, which was introduced by State Senator Raymond Lesniak. Nearly $500 million in new tax revenue could be created in the long-term, while in the short-term, that figure is $55 million with 2,000 new jobs.
Aside from the monetary and job-creation aspects of the bill, being the first mover in the new-age industry is of the utmost importance, according to Brennan. He touted in the same press release, “Successful enactment of the proposed legislation could generate economic and fiscal benefits that far exceed those associated with an intrastate system. In particular, passage of this legislation could allow New Jersey to become the business hub of a burgeoning new industry, exporting services to and generating income from gamers throughout the country.”
Lawmakers in California and Florida have also been exploring bringing intrastate internet gambling to life. The bill passed in New Jersey could become the model that other states would follow and allows web-based versions of popular brick-and-mortar casino games like poker. How the bill will affect sites that already service the U.S. market like PokerStars and Full Tilt remains to be seen.
Caesars Entertainment operates four casinos in Atlantic City: Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Marina, and Showboat. The largest casino in the city in terms of revenue is the Borgata, which Boyd Gaming operates.
Brennan told Poker News Daily that the Governor could take as long as until March 4th to act. The legislature will be in recess prior to that date.