New Jersey Still Free From Internet Gambling

by , Mar 3, 2011 | 5:59 pm

With Internet gaming, a lot of legislative maneuverings seem to come down to the wire – to a fleeting few moments of activity before deadlines. That may be because of the subject- matter; gambling is a net vote loser and, accordingly, politicians want to deal with it at the end of a schedule if they want to deal with it at all. This was one such day in New Jersey.

Today was Governor Christie’s deadline for taking some action (or inaction) on the Internet gaming measure approved by the New Jersey legislature earlier this year. First came word that Governor Christie was holding a press conference this morning. Would Internet gaming be discussed? Maybe! That’s all the poker cognoscenti needed to hear! Then, as Scarlet Robinson ably reported (here), nothing seemed to come of that. More waiting.

Later came word that the Governor vetoed the measure, which is clear from his letter to the State Senate. One person that I know called this; most others I canvassed was expecting a conditional veto, with Christie sending the measure back to the legislature and specifically objecting to the horseracing subsidy. (Interestingly, earlier today the New Jersey legislative website recorded the send-back from the Governor as a conditional veto. Now, they’ve changed it to reflect that it’s an absolute veto.)

I’ll leave it to others to discuss the politics and machinations of the Governor’s interaction with legislators and lobbyists over this measure. I suspect it will be a good story when it comes out.

Now what? The legislature can override the veto if it has the votes or it can take the Governor’s letter to heart and seek to put together a referendum on the matter in New Jersey. Or it could treat this as a conditional veto in all but name and try again and address some (horseracing subsidies) but not all (a referendum) of the Governor’s concerns.

This may be a setback for Internet gaming in the United States, but it’s really too soon to tell. Will other states take their cue from a veto in New Jersey? Maybe. Perhaps other states will distinguish New Jersey’s measure, which legalized an Internet version of any game currently offered in Atlantic City casinos, from an intrastate poker-only bill. On one level, the kind of focus and wrangling that’s happened in New Jersey gives traction to the people who assert that this really should be restricted to poker and regulated by Congress at a national level.

One thing is certain: further delay in New Jersey (whether it’s short- or long-term) is a win for the offshore unregulated casino and poker industries currently servicing US customers. They’ll continue to function in a legal grey area that’s only extended by a failure by the federal and state governments to act.

Comments are closed.