New Jersey Enacts Internet Gaming Law

This time it’s for real.

Less than three weeks after Republican Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a previous version of the same bill, New Jersey lawmakers enacted a law authorizing intrastate online gaming, including poker, in the Garden State. The new law, which was tailored to Christie’s specific recommendations, officially makes New Jersey the third state in the nation to approve intrastate online gaming.

“This is an historic moment for Atlantic City and the State of New Jersey,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth). “Because of internet gaming, at least one and likely two casinos will not have to close, and close to 4,000 jobs will be saved. Internet gaming will attract more visitors to our casinos, create more jobs, and create up to $1.5 billion in revenue. This is truly a great day for Atlantic City and New Jersey.”

A previous version of the bill, A-2578, cleared both chambers of the legislature in late December 2012. Gov. Christie used all of his allotted 45 days considering whether to sign the measure before ultimately opting for a conditional veto. At the time Christie acknowledged that “now is the time for our State to move forward, again leading the way for the nation, by becoming one of the first States to permit Internet gaming,” but expressed concerns about problem gaming and regulatory transparency. He also insisted on a 10-year sunset for the measure so that legislators would have an opportunity in the future to review whether or not online gaming had been a success in the Garden State.

None of those changes encountered any serious resistance in the state legislature. The Assembly voted in favor of the revised version of A-2578 by 68-5; the Senate followed suit a short time later, 35-1.

The scene now shifts to the Division of Gaming Enforcement, the body that will be responsible for issuing internet gaming licenses. Estimates for when the DGE will issue the first licenses, and when the first regulated internet games will take place, range from 9 months to 24 months.

All eyes will be watching Rational Group, parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Rational Group recently filed an application for a Preliminary Casino Authorization to acquire the Atlantic Club, a small casino at the south end of the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. If the purchase of Atlantic Club passes regulatory muster, it’s widely expected that Rational Group will enter the New Jersey online gaming market.

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