I-gaming bill vetoed, but Christie says he'll OK it with changes
Feb 07, 2013 (The Philadelphia Inquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Gov. Christie vetoed Thursday a closely watched Internet gambling bill that would have allowed New Jersey to join Nevada and Delaware in permitting some form of online gaming. But the governor clearly softened his position, stating in a 31-page conditional-veto letter to the bill's key sponsors that he was willing to support I-gaming legislation if the activity were limited to a 10-year trial period, subject to an annual review.
In a statement issued at 1:54 p.m. Thursday, Christie said now was the right time for the Garden State to become "one of the first states to permit Internet gaming, but only with the right limitations."
Christie also wants to boost the current proposed tax on gross online gaming revenue, from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Under the current legislation, patrons could gamble only from computer servers housed at the dozen Atlantic City casinos. Those who have championed Internet gaming say it could generate an additional $200 million a year in revenue for the ailing casinos, which have been battered by regional competition.
Christie stressed that he wanted to increase resources to treat compulsive gambling and provide sensible safeguards to ensure careful oversight of Internet gaming.
His recommendations include establishing a requirement that elected state officials promptly disclose their past and present representations of entities seeking or holding Internet gaming licenses. He also wants an enhanced level of funding for compulsive-gambling treatment programs.
The Republican governor vetoed an Internet gaming bill in early 2011 over concerns the activity could not be contained to Atlantic City casinos. He said then that he feared Internet cafes would sprout all over the state allowing the activity.
"Our state cannot carelessly create a new generation of addicted gamers, sitting in their homes, using laptops or iPads, gambling their salaries and their futures," he said.
He also recommended that Internet gaming and its societal impact should be studied and periodically revisited.
"This bill represents an important policy decision for the residents of New Jersey, and a historic opportunity to continue the state's leadership as a premiere destination for tourism and entertainment," Christie said. "Such a significant step must be carefully considered, balancing the benefits of job creation, economic development, and the continued revitalization of Atlantic City against the risks of addiction, corruption and improper influence.
"It is my duty as governor to make these determinations, always mindful of my duty to guarantee the continued welfare of our families, our neighbors, and the future generations," he said.
The governor called his recommendations "critical, but common-sense safeguards to limit risks of gambling addiction, corruption and improper influence while fostering benefits of job creation and continued economic development and revitalization of Atlantic City."
Proponents of Internet gaming were elated Thursday. They said New Jersey was quickly falling behind other states. Last summer, Nevada became the first state to legalize intrastate online poker, while Delaware became the first to allow online casino gambling.
The state Assembly will take up the issue when it meets later this month. The Senate will give final approval at its next meeting March 18.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D. Union), who spent most of last year tweaking the bill Christie vetoed in March 2011, said Thursday's veto was different.
"Last year was an outright veto," said Lesniak, who got a copy of the veto letter early Thursday. "I didn't move anything until Christie said he would reconsider it.
"Not much to work out," he said, "only had to overcome Christie's temerity on the issue."
Jeremy D. Frey, a partner at law firm Pepper Hamilton L.L.P. who specializes in Internet gaming matters, said: "The governor's conditional veto paves the way for intrastate Internet gambling in New Jersey. The legislature should be able quickly to include the governor's modest recommendations.
"On a broader note, the governor's agreement to legalize Internet gambling is the only choice that can be made for New Jersey," Frey said. "With legalization of intrastate Internet gambling in Nevada and Delaware, New Jersey had the choice of losing the gaming market to others states and its leadership position in the gaming industry, or of embracing and regulating gaming over the Internet and over mobile technology."
Contact Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2855 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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