Gov. Chris Christie picked up THE pen and signed the bill that would license and regulate online poker in New Jersey on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013. This coming on the heels of a two-year wait while similar legislation hit Christie's desk two times and he waited each time for the final day of the 45-day window to veto the bills.
Earlier this month Christie conditionally vetoed the bill but signed it today just a few minutes after the changes made by Christie were approved by the New Jersey state legislature in a vote of 68-5-1 in the Assembly and 35-1 in the Senate.
New Jersey now joins Nevada and Delaware in authorizing online poker with New Jersey and Delaware approving full casino-style online gambling.
Changes requested by Christie in the conditional veto were passed by the legislature, changes that would increase the tax on gross revenues from 10 to 15 percent, raise funds from $150,000 to $250,000 a year to be earmarked for compulsive gambling programs, and putting a 10 year life span on the authorization of online gambling unless it is re-established by law.
“If at first you don't succeed, try, try again,” State Sen. Ray Lesniak, the leading sponsor of the bill, told PokerNews.com in a phone interview. “It's been an unnecessarily long road, but we finally got there. It's a relief. I didn't want to have to go through this a third time, but I'll tell you I was prepared to. The governor knew I wasn't going away, and unfortunately neither were the problems of Atlantic City.”
Lesniak began the initial introduction of legislation that would license and regulate Internet gambling in January 2010. Approved by the state legislature in January of 2011, Christie waited until the last possible day to veto the bill in March. Christie appeared to be open to the idea of online gaming in January of 2012 during his state of the state address which brought Lesniak to reintroduce the legislation with changes for Christie's concerns in his initial veto. The state legislature passed the bill once again last December, only to have Christie wait - again - until the last day to give his conditional veto.
Lesniak criticized Christie's wavering on the issue.
“From the get go, the governor has been on the wrong side of what is necessary to save jobs in Atlantic City and grow the gaming industry there and in the state,” Lesniak said. "It was a real struggle to get him to change his viewpoint, but thankfully he did. Better late than never.”
The speed of the legislation's approval can be attributed to the race to compete with Nevada and Delaware; an emergency resolution was called by the legislature. Lesniak is hoping that virtual cards will be in the air in September.
“I think the fall is a somewhat aggressive timetable but certainly doable, particularly since we put our stamp of approval on this so quickly,” Lesniak said.
PokerStars is expected to return to U.S. soil with New Jersey's signing online gambling into law since its parent company, Rational Group, is working to buy the struggling Atlantic Club Hotel Casino once regulatory approval has been received.
Lesniak is pressing Christie's administration to start putting together offer sheets for other states; New Jersey would then be their center for regulation and online gaming sites.
“We need to get aggressive in courting other states to hook up with us,” Lesniak said. “The governor has an aggressive budget progression for revenue in Internet gaming, so to meet those one of the ways is to take the lead with other states. I expect the momentum to grow once states see the success we're having with it in New Jersey.”