Governor Christie Signs New Jersey Online Gambling Bill Into Law
Poker Players Alliance Vice President Rich “TheEngineer” Muny summarized today’s big news succinctly when he posted on the Two Plus Two forums, “It's done! Signed, sealed, and now law of the land in NJ.”
Muny was referring to online gambling, which became legal today in the state of New Jersey after a revised bill was passed by both chambers of the state legislature and then signed by Governor Chris Christie. It will still be quite some time before any internet gaming sites actually go live, but now having a third state give the thumbs-up to online gambling, and a large state at that, makes for a momentous day.
In December, twin bills, Assembly Bill A2578 and Senate Bill S1565 made it through their respective chambers without much problem and it looked like the outlook for online gambling was positive in New Jersey. The deadline for the Governor to sign the bill was February 7th, but as that day approached, rumors began swirling that he might not lend his autograph to the document.
When the day finally came, Governor Christie conditionally vetoed “An Act Authorizing Internet Gaming at Atlantic City Casinos
under Certain Circumstances,” meaning that most it met with his approval, but there were certain problems he deemed important enough to need changing before he would give it his ok.
Fortunately, none of the issues he had with the bill were too serious. The most outwardly significant change he wanted was an increase in the tax on revenues assessed to poker sites
from 10 percent to 15 percent. Governor Christie also asked for more money to be allocated to problem gambling programs, for state elected officials to have to disclose any representation they have ever had of those entities applying for internet gambling licenses, and for the current ban on casino employment for state employees and legislators to also apply to internet gaming companies.
The chambers of the legislature made the adjustments and voted on the revised bill today. The General Assembly passed it overwhelmingly by a 68-5-1 vote, while the Senate did the same, 35-1. The bill went immediately to the Governor, who signed it quickly.
Shortly thereafter, Governor Christie delivered his state budget address to the members of the legislature in Trenton. In the speech, he proposed a $33 billion budget for 2014, $180 million of which will come from internet gambling. The Governor was particularly proud that he was able to balance the budget without increasing taxes and one might assume that the projected revenues from online gambling helped things.
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is understandably excited about what happened today. In a press release, PPA Executive Director John Pappas said, “New Jersey has gone ‘all in.’ Residents now will have access to a safe and regulated online gaming market, and the state will have a new source for revenue and job creation – something the federal government has failed to do thus far.”
PPA New Jersey State Director Anthony Salerno added, “This law will invigorate Atlantic City and will position New Jersey as national online gaming epicenter.”
Now, of course, we play the waiting game as operators must submit licensing applications, which will in turn take time to review. There has been some speculation in the industry that sites could go live by the end of the year, though some experts think it will take longer. Gary Loveman, CEO of Caesars Entertainment Corporation, opined that we won’t see any sites up and running until “…somewhere between 18 months and 2 years following the governor's filing of this piece of legislation.”
This would run contrary to the timeline laid out in the bill, which said that it would be a minimum of 90 days until games could be offered but no more than 180 days.
The new law allows for all forms of gambling that are currently offered in New Jersey casinos, though it is still up to the Division of Gaming Enforcement to explicitly authorize online poker. While there is always the possibility that poker could be delayed because it is seen as more complicated than other casino games (ex: craps, blackjack
) from a regulatory standpoint, there is no reason to fear that it will not be allowed.