NJ Senate Says OK to Online Gambling – Governor Christie’s Turn Once Again

New Jersey online gambling proponents are holding their breath. In 2011 a legislative package which would legalize online casino gambling in New Jersey passed through the State Assembly by nearly a 6 to 1 margin. The Internet interactive gaming bill was then easily approved by the state Senate, and needed only to receive Governor Christie’s okay and signature to make the Garden State the first US state at that time to legalize an online gambling package. It didn’t happen.

Governor Christie gave a very strong “no” to the bill, and pro-gambling legislators and lawmakers were forced back to the drawing board in 2012. Well, after spending much of 2012 licking their wounds and changing the proposal, they drew up another perspective online gaming package. And just a week before Christmas the New Jersey State Assembly okayed the bill for passage once again on to the New Jersey state Senate. With crossed fingers and much trepidation, online gamers in New Jersey and hopeful legislators already eyeballing the millions of dollars of regulation revenue waited for Senate approval.

For the second year in a row the New Jersey Senate was in lock and step agreement with the State Assembly, as the final legislative approval was made at the end of 2012. Would-be gamblers would have to be located in New Jersey, and this would cover travelers as well as residents. Legislators like Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) have found the bill “pro-New Jersey” for two years in a row now, and have pushed it back onto the desk of Governor Christie. Neither the governor nor his office has commented as of yet, which could be a good sign after last year’s blatant refusal to pass the online gambling legislation, coupled with his heavy-handed comments about the issue.

There is no doubt that the money US states could take in nationally would total in the billions of dollars. And with the current economic crisis in New Jersey and other states, states like Nevada and Delaware have already passed online gambling packages in hopes to bolster state coffers. California is another state that has tried valiantly for two years to pass an interactive online gaming law, and states like Ohio and Iowa have also been in the discussion. New Jersey would be only the third US state to okay online gambling in some form since the DOJ reversed their decision, and passed that decision-making process on to the state level in late 2011.

Lesniak is one of the bill’s sponsors, and he spent most of 2012 tweaking the 2011 legislative package to address the issues that Governor Christie mentioned he had with that original piece of online gaming legislation. He once again reiterated the need for the Governor to sign off on the new bill, mentioning the financial difficulties that have been experienced by Atlantic City casinos the past couple of years. New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Sens. Raymond J. Lesniak (D., Union), Jim Whelan (D., Atlantic), and Jeff Van Drew (D., Cape May) wrote to Christie after okaying the proposal, demanding passage this time around. If okayed by Christie, online gaming in New Jersey would be taxed at 10%, compared with 6.75% in Nevada, generating an estimated $200 million a year in much-needed revenue for Atlantic City, and the state of New Jersey.