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New Jersey Governor Vetoes Online Gambling Bill

The office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has announced that he’s vetoed the bill that would have regulated online gambling in the Garden State — and would have made New Jersey the first American state to do so. 

Just why Christie waited until the last possible moment — even extending the deadline at one point — only to veto the bill has yet to be fully explained. True, Christie is a conservative, a faction that tends to disparage gambling. But the governor had approved other land-based casino and horse racing improvements to the state, so it’s uncertain what his motivations for this veto are.

At any rate, it is certain that the online gambling industry will be discussing this topic for weeks to come — just as the focus shifts now to other states seeking to be the first to regulate online gambling (the frontrunners in that race are currently California, Florida, and Iowa, with Nevada still holding an outside chance, too).

“In a press conference before the veto was made public, Christie said he would veto the bill if he had legal or constitutional questions,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “I’ve got to make sure that if I were to sign something like that that it would both be legal and constitutional,” Christie said at the conference, per the article.

The Journal article points out that the legislation had a powerful opponent: Caesars Entertainment Inc., which owns four casinos in Atlantic City. “Caesars is against the state-by-state approach to legalizing Web gambling because the company is hoping to successfully pressure the federal government to create a regulated nationwide system, which would be both more simple to manage and much more profitable for the company,” the article explains.

“We’ve always felt that the first focus should be trying to enact federal legislation,” Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Caesars, told the WSJ.

It’s not over
New Jersey lawmakers still hold out hope that they can “tweak the proposal to get it in shape for the governor’s signature,” the Wall Street Journal article continues. “I know we’re going to be able to get it done,” State Senator Raymond Lesniak, the bill’s main supporter, said.

If Jersey still wants to be the first state to regulate online gambling — and there’s a powerful financial incentive to do so — then it’d better start moving fast. Yesterday, Iowa made a big step in the same direction, and California’s ramping up its online poker regulatory campaign, as well.