In a surprise move New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a closely watched internet gambling bill. Christie said he would sign the bill if certain conditions were met. The governor has softened his position on internet gambling and in a 31 page conditional-veto letter to the bill’s sponsors Christie said he would support internet gambling in New Jersey if the activity were limited to a 10 year trial period that would be reviewed annually. The governor also wanted more resources directed at treating problem gamblers and wants the tax on gross online-gaming revenues raised from 10% to 15%.
Legislators said they expect an amended bill to be signed into law as early as March 18th. In a statement Christie said that now is the right time for New Jersey to be “one of the first states to permit Internet gaming, but only with the right limitations and protections.” Under the current proposed law Players could only gamble from servers located at the 12 casinos in Atlantic City. This will satisfy constitutional requirements that limit gambling to Atlantic City.
Those who favor internet gambling say it will create hundreds of new jobs and could add as much as $200 million in revenues for struggling Atlantic City casinos. Casinos in Atlantic City have been pressured by competition from casinos in Pennsylvania and New York. Pennsylvania is also taking a look at interactive gaming. State Representative Tina Davis announced that she plans to introduce legislation that will establish guidelines and regulations for internet gambling in Pennsylvania.
In his veto Christie said he wanted more resources set aside to treat problem gambling in the state. He also wants safeguards in place to make sure there is careful oversight of internet gambling. Christie recommended that state officials disclose any relationships with entities seeking internet gambling licenses in New Jersey. Christie wants to fun treatment programs for compulsive gambling be raising the license fee from $150,000 to $250,000 per license. Terry Elman of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey said his group applauds Christie’s attention to the problem of compulsive gambling. Elman stated “He’s absolutely right in his idea to have more money for treatment, especially for young people because they already do it. With [Internet gambling] legal, it will make it 10 times worse. … Any time you expand gambling, it always creates more problem gamblers.”
On February 7th, the date of the veto, Christie reiterated some of his concerns and said “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. 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.”