New Jersey Online Gambling VetoedBy: Rick Balding, Thursday March 3rd 2011
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The vetoing of the New Jersey online gambling bill by Governor Chris Christie has not come as a surprise. Practically every analyst involved with online gambling had predicted this. However the interest lay in the reasons that the governor would give in support of his decision.
The governor did try to ride both horses to the extent possible. He praised the intent of the bill, thus signaling to the supporters of online gambling in New Jersey that he was with them. He vetoed the bill because it did not fit in with the larger picture of gambling in New Jersey which had to be held inviolate.
The main reason for the absolute veto was that the Constitution of New Jersey requires that casino gambling to be restricted to the territorial limits of Atlantic City. The online gambling bill S490 seeks to allow all residents of New Jersey to wager online. What the S490 does is require that the servers of the potential online casino operators to be located in Atlantic City and this would deem the wager to originate in Atlantic City even if the online player was outside. Governor Christie has responded to this saying, "In my view, the creation of legal fiction deeming all wagers to have 'originated' in Atlantic City cannot overcome the clear and unambiguous language of the state Constitution."
Some other objections were cited by the governor. The New Jersey online gambling bill requires that the revenue generated by the state from online gambling be used to subsidize horseracing. Governor Christie intends to make horseracing a self-sustaining industry without state subsidy and therefore found this proposal unacceptable. The governor also said that the S490 failed to address the issue of commercial establishments outside of Atlantic City such as bars, nightclubs and restaurants offering online gambling potentially leading to the creation of hubs outside of Atlantic City.
The veto was not without its share of high drama. Earlier in the day Joe Brennan Jr. of iMEGA and Democratic Senator Raymond Lesniak, the sponsor of the bill, claimed to be assured by the governor's office that Governor Christie would only conditionally veto the bill on the ground that it did not do enough to prevent illegal gambling agents from setting up near the state's borders. Then Christie would partner with Lesniak and add his name to the bill and the Senator would re-introduce the bill to both houses next week. However pressure seems to have been brought on the governor after that and he rejected the bill altogether.
Senator Lesniak has not given up hope. He reacted to the veto by saying, "I look forward to working with Governor Christie and his administration in order to get Internet wagering up and running as soon as possible. We cannot let this opportunity slip through our grasp."
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