On Friday, the state of New Jersey once again took the step to become only the third state in the United State to enter into the online gaming market with the passage of legislation that now awaits Governor Chris Christie’s signature.
The State Senate took up Senator Ray Lesniak’s proposal that would open up the Garden State for more than just online poker. The bill would bring to the citizens of New Jersey (yes, it is an intra-state system) full online casino gaming that can be found in Atlantic City. Those games would include slots, blackjack, roulette and other table games and deviations that exist in a live casino setting.
The State Senate did take some time to debate the bill as some legislators looked to learn why the bill was being exclusive to Atlantic City casinos (by the statutes of the state Constitution, all gaming must be conducted in the borders of Atlantic City). Senator Mike Doherty expressly asked why the state’s horse racing facilities couldn’t be allowed to offer online gaming to compete with Atlantic City. Senator Lesniak pointed out the current statutes regarding the issue but also added that he would work to allow the racetracks to offer online gaming in the future.
After the debate, the State Senate voted by a dominant margin, 48-25 with three abstentions, to pass the bill. Earlier this week, the New Jersey General Assembly had passed the legislation by a dominant margin, 33-3, and in both bodies there was support on both sides of the aisle (Republican and Democrat) to make New Jersey the “Silicon Valley” of online gaming.
The bill would require that servers for any online gaming operation be housed in Atlantic City, as to not violate the state Constitution. In addition, the gaming can only be offered through established casino outlets in the City (those outlets can either offer online gaming independently or team up with an iGaming provider for the operation) and any game offered in Atlantic City could be played online. All players on the proposed New Jersey gaming outlet would have to physically be located in the state and the revenues from the operation would be taxed at 10%, potentially earning hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the Atlantic City casino industry and the state coffers.
Now comes the big step for online gaming regulation in the state of New Jersey. The bill is on the desk of Governor Christie, who has raised hopes on this issue previously before dashing them. Last year, Governor Christie – then thought of as a potential Republican Presidential nominee – vetoed the bill, citing the subsidies that would go to racetracks and the potential for “gaming cafes” that would spring up overnight. After the December 2011 ruling by the U. S. Department of Justice regarding the Wire Act of 1961 – that the law only applied to sports betting but no other form of gaming – Governor Christie shifted his stance.
In January of this year, Governor Christie stated that he “wanted” New Jersey to be at the forefront of online gaming regulation and legislation started forward once again. This was derailed in April, however, when Governor Christie – now being considered as a Vice Presidential nominee to team with GOP nominee Mitt Romney – put the brakes on any legislation. It was believed at the time that the Governor, with a party that has a vehement anti-online gaming policy, didn’t want to potentially offend any big donors or dent his political aspirations.
Now that the 2012 elections are over, the legislators in New Jersey are hopeful that there are no obstacles to Governor Christie’s acceptance of the proposed online gaming legislation. Governor Christie has three options – to sign the bill outright and put it into law, to veto the bill outright or to not do anything, which would also pass the bill. He has 45 days to take action, meaning that in February (unless the Governor signs the bill at an earlier date – or vetoes it) online gaming will be coming to the state of New Jersey.