Garden State lawmakers have long toyed with the idea of legalizing and regulating online gambling within the state of New Jersey. Back in 2011 the state legislative machine churned out a legal initiative which would have turned New Jersey into the first US state to legalize and regulate online gambling. Both the state Assembly and the Senate passed Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s bill, but the whole effort ran ashore when Governor Chris Christie refused to sign it into law. It should be noted that the bill vetoed by Christie was passed with a large bipartisan majority.
These days, the game seems to be on again. Lesniak is at it again. The ill-fated 2011 Bill was taken and amended into an entirely different type of animal, or so lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum believe. The said bill is therefore yet again on Christie’s desk, awaiting his signature.
What exactly has changed besides the amended bill of course, since 2011? According to Lesniak and many of the other lawmakers supporting the new initiative, quite a lot. While the proposed bill was passed through an eerily similar bipartisan effort yet again, that is pretty much where the similarities stop. The economic circumstances are indeed radically different. Ravaged by hurricane Sandy, the economy of the Garden State is pretty much in shambles. It would be a mistake to fault Mother Nature solely for the current state of affairs though. New Jersey’s problems are much deeper and further reaching. The state, which viewed Atlantic City and its gambling-related revenues as a major economic engine for years, has been bleeding customers to neighboring states for quite a while now. With many of the other US states pondering laws and regulations in regards to online poker and online gambling, the pressure has gradually mounted and many Atlantic City businesses have been pushed to the brink of extinction.
Lesniak and his ilk obviously view online gambling and poker as potential lifesavers for the state’s besieged gambling economy. Furthermore, according to some of the rumors, the world’s largest online poker operation, PokerStars, may be looking to set up shop in Atlantic City by purchasing a land-based gambling operation there, a move which would not only bail out a single business, but may potentially end up turning New Jersey into the new focal point of the US online poker industry.
With the New Year more than a week old, and with Christie still not showing any signs of willingness to tackle the issue, some of the lawmakers behind the initiative are growing restless. Jim Whelan, Raymond Lesniak and Stephan Sweeney have apparently already written to the governor urging action on his part.
It now looks like the fate of legal online gambling and online poker in one of the United States’ most gambling oriented states rests in the hands of one Republican governor who has taken a rather anti-legalization stance in the past. Whether or not the circumstances are dire enough to convince Christie to finally pick up his pen and lift the shackles off the online gambling industry, remains to be seen. One thing is certain though: New Jersey lawmakers sure do have their minds set on getting this issue out of the way once and for all.