New Jersey Online Gambling Bill Encounters Roadblock

19 March 2012 | By:

Some analysts had pegged New Jersey as the likely first US state to pass a bill allowing for legal intra-state online gambling for residents but the current bill being debated has failed to advance through the legislature and will have to wait at least six weeks for another try.

The bill was sponsored by Raymond Lesniak and Jim Wehlan and is very similar to a nearly dentical bill that passed the state legislature in 2011 but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Chris Christie over concerns about implementation and conflicts with existing federal anti-gambling laws.

One of those concerns — whether or not intra-state online poker and casino sites would run afoul of the US Wire Act — was answered in late 2011 when the US Department of Justice clarified its position on the issue by issuing an opinion that the Wire Act only applies to sportsbetting and not to other activities such as playing online poker or purchasing lottery tickets online.

Christie himself had the following to say when asked about the Department of Justice’s clarification, lending support to the belief that the new online gambling bill would quickly be passed in New Jersey: “I think New Jersey should be in that business. I think we should be an epicenter for that business.”

Some of Christie’s previous concerns revolved around how potential tax revenues gleaned from online gambling would be use to bolster the state’s existing gambling options as far as racetracks and casino — primarily in Atlantic City — without further damaging its poor recent results.

Atlantic City has long been the US’ second largest gambling market but it is very likely to lose that crown to Pennsylvania in 2012, with newer casinos opening in neighboring states steadily siphoning gambling dollars (and tax revenues) away from New Jersey since its gambling revenues peaked in 2006.

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