New Jersey's Internet gambling bill made it through the State Senate on Thursday, December 21st, 2012, after clearing the State Assembly on Monday, December 17th, 2012. Passing through the Senate with a vote of 33-3, the bill goes back to the desk of Gov. Chris Christie.
"I hope the governor will sign as soon as possible so we can save jobs, create jobs in Atlantic City and bring much-needed revenue to our casinos and the treasury of the state of New Jersey," said State Sen. Ray Lesniak, lead sponsor of the legislation.
Christie vetoed the bill last year after he waited past the 45-day mark to make a decision (a legislative recess gave him extra time) and vetoed the bill on the final day of his deadline.
Lesniak has high hopes that the governor will approve the bill this time but he really has no idea which way it will go. If the bill is signed by the governor, Lesniak believes the first online poker sites will be running in New Jersey within six months.
The approval of online poker in New Jersey would only allow players in New Jersey to benefit from online gambling but Lesniak hopes that other states would legalize online poker and join New Jersey's experienced gaming state where sites and regulations would already be established.
"It would be a life boat that our casinos could hold on to in anticipation of not only getting additional revenue but being able to attract more people to Atlantic City through the use of comps," Lesniak said.
New Jersey's gambling bill approval could also mark the return PokerStars to the United States since PokerStars has shown an interest in purchasing an Atlantic City casino which led to Lesniak's statement that New Jersey would welcome the investment from the world's largest internet poker site.
Christie's indication in January that he was coming around to the idea of Internet gambling encouraged Lesniak to reintroduce the bill but support from the governor's officers fell with heated election campaigns.
The concerns voiced by Christie when vetoing the original bill have apparently been resolved. One in particular was the state constitution's requirement that all casino gambling would be within the boundaries of Atlantic City and Seton Hall law professor John B. Wefing provided the interpretation - as long as the servers are located in Atlantic City, there is no issue with the state constitution.
Lesniak has estimated that online gaming would provide more than $100 million a year in online gaming revenue through Atlantic City casinos and the state would earn 10 percent in taxes.
"We have given him expert legal opinions in addition to my opinion that [the constitutionality issue] was solved by bets being taken in Atlantic City and only Atlantic City casinos being involved in Atlantic City gaming," Lesniak said. "If he doesn't sign the bill, at least one Atlantic City casino if not more will close and thousands of jobs will be lost."