GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 16 - May 2011

By Vin Narayanan G ov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation that would have made New Jersey the first American state to license and regulate online gambling. The legislation, which would have given Atlantic City casinos the ability to offer online gambling to New Jersey residents, passed the State Assembly by a 63-11-3 vote and the State Senate by a 35-2 vote. In a message to the Legislature explain- ing his veto, Christie said the online gambling bill violated the New Jersey Constitution. “The State Constitution explicitly re- quires casino gambling to be restricted to the territorial limits of Atlantic City,” Christie wrote. “Senate Bill No. 490 seeks to avoid this requirement by deem- ing all Internet wagers as being placed in Atlantic City, even if the person placing the bet is outside the boundaries of the city. In my view, the creation of a legal fiction deeming all wagers to have ‘origi- nated’ in Atlantic City cannot overcome the clear and unambiguous language of the State Constitution.” “Moreover, certain provisions set forth in this legislation are not consistent with my administration’s policy objectives, such as the continuation of public subsi- dies of horse racing,” Christie added. Christie said he was also worried about the development of Internet gambling ca- fes in New Jersey. “Nothing contained in the legislation would prohibit commer- cial establishments outside of Atlantic City such as nightclubs, bars, restau- rants, cafes and amusement parks from offering Internet gambling opportunities in order to attract patrons or customers,” Christie said. At the end of his veto message, Christie suggested it would take a public referendum to change his mind about online gambling. “The expansion of gambling has been slow and cautious,” Christie wrote. “The public has expressed con- cerns regarding the po- tential ills associated with gambling and has demand- ed that gambling be closely scrutinized and regulated to ensure that it is admin- istered in a fair and legiti- mate manner. This public sentiment has resulted in an established line of court rulings that have consis- tently required direct voter approval for each new form of gambling introduced in this state.” Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the online gaming legislation, said he would work to bring new online gaming legislation to the governor’s desk. “We need to work as quickly as possible to bring this bill back to the governor’s desk, and position Atlantic City to be- come the Silicon Valley of the high-tech gaming sector,” Lesniak said in a state- ment. “New Jersey can still become the first state in the nation to offer legalized Internet wagering, and by leading the way, we position the Garden State to reap the benefits of getting in on the ground floor of a multi-million dollar market.” Sen. Jim Whelan also said he was ready to work on getting another online gaming bill to the governor’s desk this year. “We want to be the first. We want to get there first,” Whelan told the GPWA. “I would have preferred [Christie] signed the bill, or secondly a conditional veto. But he has left the door open for a bill in the future.” “We can address the cyber cafe issue,” Whelan added. “The horse racing issue – that was frankly part of getting the votes in the state Legislature. In a per- fect world, I’d rather not have that ei- ther. But we had to take care of the horse racing industry. We just need to make it clearer that this is temporary help for the industry.” “I’ve spoken with Senator Lesniak, and we’re going to put together a bill that ad- dresses these concerns,” Whelan said. “The governor wants it to go to a public referendum,” said Joe Brennan, chair- man of the Interactive Media & Gaming Association, which worked with Lesniak on the bill. “We know it would pass based on a referendum. We used the governor’s own pollster and found that 63 percent would vote for [online gaming].” “New Jersey had taken the lead in estab- lishing itself as the center for Internet gambling and the jobs it could have cre- ated and the investment it would have drawn could have helped the state,” Brennan added. “Now it looks like New Jersey will miss out on the first mover ad- vantage that it was in position to grab.” “Certain Nevada-based casinos and offshore operators opposed the bill,” Brennan said. “Maybe it was their lob- bying [that killed it]. Who knows? Regardless of what the governor did today, people are going to bet on the Internet. They’re just not going to do it on a site licensed by the state of New Jersey. I’m not saying I encourage it, but that’s the reality.” WEBMASTER NEWS Governor’s veto kills online gambling legislation in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Webmaster News