New Jersey Online Gambling Bill

On February 26 2013 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed an online gambling bill passed both houses of the legislature, there converting it into law. The pathway was a long and tortuous one and this article outlines what can only be called The New Jersey Online Gambling Bill Saga.

The origin of this online gambling saga in New Jersey can be traced to January 2010 when Democrat Senator Ray Lesniak introduced a bill that would Atlantic City casinos to offer online versions of their games, such as poker, blackjack and baccarat, in New Jersey and outside the United States. In June 2010 the bill was passed the State Senate Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. Almost immediately differences began to be aired in the public domain. The Casino Association of New Jersey opposed state regulation of online gambling and wanted it at the federal level. The racetracks wanted to be allowed to offer slot machines at their venues. There were conflicting legislative bills in the state Senate and Assembly. Senator Lesniak stated that all sectors of the gambling industry were in trouble and were trying to gain advantage at the expense of others. However, he agreed to hold his bill till all issues had been discussed and some consensus obtained.

Thereafter the bill cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in November 2010. The bill was expected to be passed the full Senate the end of the year. Senator Lesniak pointed out that revenues and jobs were going to offshore international gaming operators. Legalized and regulated online gambling in New Jersey would divert those revenues and jobs to the state. In January 2011 the bill was also cleared the New Jersey Assembly. The bill was sent to Governor Christie for signature and New Jersey was set to become the first American jurisdiction to legalize online gambling. But in March 2011 Christie vetoed the bill. He praised the intent of the bill but said that there were lacunas in the bill. He said that locating the servers of the online gambling operators in Atlantic City casinos did not meet the New Jersey constitutional requirement that casino gambling has to be restricted to Atlantic City. He objected to the possibility of commercial establishments outside Atlantic City offering online gambling. Senator Lesniak responded stating that he would work with the Governor’s office to get online gambling running …