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U.S. Online Gambling Legislation in Review: March 4, 2011

This week is destined to go down as one of the most eventful in American online gambling history. It was decided this week, for example, that online gambling won’t happen in New Jersey — at least not yet.

After weeks and weeks of speculation over whether Governor Chris Christie would or wouldn’t sign into law the Internet gambling regulatory bill approved by state lawmakers, there was widespread disappointment when news broke of his veto yesterday.

So, even though iMEGA and Senator Raymond Lesniak are firmly stating that the New Jersey online gambling drive isn’t dead, it’s certainly suffered a major setback — one that could see a different state taking the reins in implementing a new American online gambling infrastructure.

What’s it mean?
So, how much will Christie’s decision matter?

With New Jersey’s online gambling roadblock, Iowa takes center stage as the state closest to becoming the first to regulate online gambling. (California and Florida also have pending bills, but they haven’t made it very far, yet.) 

“Regardless of Mr. Christie’s decision, gambling experts say momentum is growing behind states’ efforts to legalize online gambling for their own residents,” writes Alexandra Berzon in the Wall Street Journal. “Last week, Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize online poker, and California and Florida are among other states considering similar bills.”

“Nick Iarossi, a Tallahassee, Florida-based gambling lobbyist said his state has an estimated 500,000 online poker players, who could bring in between $20 million and $60 million in tax revenue. He expects a proposal to be placed in front of Florida legislators within weeks,” according to the Huffington Post.

“Boosters in California estimated the state could bring in $100 million in tax revenue from the state’s 500,000 online poker fans, and that the new industry could lead to 3,000 new jobs,” the Huffington Post article continues. “Lawmakers in the District of Columbia are also considering making games like online poker legal for their residents.”

More media support
Perhaps the most striking element of the past few months is how the mainstream media has rallied to support the idea of de-criminalizing the Internet gambling industry. In addition to the Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal articles above, many other top-tier media properties are weighing in on the issue.

“It is frustrating to think that the lawmakers in Washington equate online poker players to felons,” writes  Nick Marshall for Yahoo! News. “Perhaps they have not figured out how to make money from the situation yet; after all, the state is in a budget crisis and spending money on mass media campaigns aimed at reminding adults to wash their hands. Some opponents suggest that online poker makes it too easy for people to gamble or play into their addiction, yet the state runs a lottery program and liquor stores. Casinos are also prevalent across the state, where money can equally be lost or made.”

“When the difference in legality is between playing in-person or online, you know something is wrong,” Marshall concludes.

And amen, say Internet gambling fans everywhere.