Online gambling one step closer in New Jersey

Gov. Christie conditionally vetoes, but approves Internet gambling initiative

Updated: February 7, 2013, 9:12 PM ET
By Andrew Feldman | ESPN.com

Legalized online gambling is one step closer to becoming a reality in New Jersey.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) conditionally vetoed the online gambling bill that would authorize Atlantic City casinos the ability to offer New Jersey residents the ability to play poker, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, craps, big six wheel, slot machines, mini baccarat, red dog, pai gow and sic bo online. Despite the conditional veto tag, proponents of the expansion of online gambling believe this is a big victory for the industry.

According to the New Jersey Legislature glossary, a conditional veto is "a veto in which the Governor objects to parts of a bill and proposes amendments that would make it acceptable. If the Legislature re-enacts the bill with the recommended amendments, it is presented again to the Governor for signature."

Some of the amendments that the governor has requested in this case include a 10-year lifespan to the bill (allowing future legislators to weigh in), an increase in tax revenues and better funding for problem gambler assistance.

In the text of the conditional veto, Christie said: "It is my responsibility 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. With these goals in mind, I have concluded that now is the time for our State to move forward, again leading the way for the nation, by becoming one of the first States to permit Internet gaming. I authorize this step towards modernizing Atlantic City's entertainment attractions cautiously, with carefully constructed limitations that will ensure the highest integrity and the most robust oversight. "

In an interview with NJBIZ.com, co-sponsor of the bill Sen. Lesniak said that he expects the legislature to adopt the amended bill by March 18.

Once Christie signs the resubmitted bill, New Jersey will join Nevada and Delaware as the only states to have legalized online poker. The Rational Group, parent company of PokerStars, has recently agreed to acquire The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City from Resorts International Holdings (pending the grant of an Interim Casino Authorization by the relevant New Jersey authorities) and will most likely be one of the biggest players in the industry.

"We welcome the definitive statements made today by Governor Christie in seeking to place New Jersey at the forefront of Internet gaming in the United States," said The Rational Group's Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser. "The distinctive environment that Internet gaming can create for New Jersey is unprecedented and we are pleased that Governor Christie sees the significant benefits of mixing online and offline gaming. … The most important thing, though, is that all parties work collaboratively to bring this bill back for signature quickly so that Atlantic City and New Jersey can begin to benefit from this proven global model for successful gaming."

More positive feedback on Christie's decision came from the Poker Players Alliance, the world's largest poker grassroots advocacy group.

"While the New Jersey legislature has some work to do before this bill becomes law, we believe this is a victory for New Jersey residents who reached out to the Governor in droves expressing support for this bill," said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. "Now, New Jersey is well positioned to serve as a leader in the innovative Internet gambling market and can pave the way for other states to adapt similar structures moving forward. We urge the legislature to act swiftly to pass this important legislation."

Once signed into law, the bill will also allow those living outside of New Jersey, in places where online gambling has already been deemed legal, to participate as well. Christie vetoed a similar bill in 2011.

Andrew Feldman is ESPN.com's Poker Editor. He is the host of the Poker Edge Podcast and co-host of ESPN Inside Deal. Andrew has covered the poker industry for ESPN since 2004.