Push for intrastate online wagering continues despite N.J. setback
March 10, 2011
Gov. Chris Christie dealt a blow to Internet gaming proponents nationwide when he vetoed a bill that would have legalized intrastate online poker play in New Jersey.
The legislation would have allowed licensed state casinos to run Atlantic County-based online portals offering poker, blackjack and other table games to subscribers of legal age. State Sen. Ray Lesniak, the bill’s author, claimed the measure would create 500 high-tech jobs and generate $100 million in additional revenue for the state’s ailing casino industry. The bill received majority support from both parties on its way through the legislature.
Christie, however, had a number of well-reported issues with the online gaming measure. He objected to provisions within the bill that gave a large amount of the tax proceeds generated from the additional gaming income to the state’s horse racing industry and feared the measure would have a negative impact on tottering Atlantic City casinos. He also believed the legislation would lead to an uncontrolled spread of brick-and-mortar cyber casinos.
“Nothing contained in the legislation would prohibit commercial establishments outside of Atlantic City, such as nightclubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, and amusement parks, from offering Internet gambling opportunities in order to attract patrons or customers, potentially leading to the creation of commercial gambling locations outside of Atlantic City,’’ Christie told the Associated Press.
The Casino Association of New Jersey supported Christie’s veto, despite having members actively campaigning for a national system of Internet gaming, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
It remains to be seen what impact the Christie veto would have on similar intrastate online gaming initiatives in Iowa, California and Florida. The Iowa senate is currently debating an bill that would legalize online poker for state residents, who would have to open an account with a state-regulated casino before receiving a password to log on to a virtual poker table. It’s estimated that 150,000 Iowans illegally play online poker, depriving the state of roughly $35 million per year in taxes, according to the Des Moines Register.
Meanwhile, the California legislature is mulling over to online gaming bills—one that would legalize online poker for state businesses and gaming tribes, and another that clears the way for all forms of online betting. The online poker bill, SB 40 introduced by Sen. Lou Correa, recently received the support of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association. A study commissioned by an online poker group and conducted by former State Finance Director Tim Gage claimed two million Californians regularly play online poker, wagering $13 billion each year, reported the Ventura County Star.
Florida is also considering an intrastate online poker bill which would allow state pari-mutuel facilities to operate the business.
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