Online Gambling In New Jersey Postponed On Constitutional Grounds

New Jersey Senator’s latest attempt to legalize intrastate online gambling hits a speed bump

Intrastate internet gambling legislation in New Jersey has been delayed once again when Gov. Chris Christie relied on constitutional provisions and therefore postponed the latest attempt made by Senator Ray Lesniak.

Sen.Lesniak announced earlier this week his intentions to take full advantage of the new DoJ policy on internet gambling to rapidly push through the legalization his S3019 bill scheduled to be heard in Assembly and Senate committees on Thursday and voted on in full sessions of both houses next Monday.

However, the dispute between Sen Lesniak and Gov. Christie continued when Christie derailed Lesniak's last legalization attempt by exercising his veto on constitutional grounds despite overwhelming legislative approval, and now citing constitutional concerns, stepped in with a delaying tactic.

Sen. Lesniak, in his Wednesday statement to the local media said he had spoken to the governor and agreed to delay the reintroduction of internet gambling legalization to the first weeks of the next Legislative session: "I expect that we can get it through the Legislature and signed by the Governor within the first few weeks of the new session.”

He also revealed that the governor has a few concerns and legal questions on the bill, one of them being whether it has to be put to voters on a ballot as a constitutional amendment.

“There are competing opinions on that within the administration and within the industry. But I am convinced that we can move forward and get it up and rolling without amending the constitution.” said Lesniak.

In that latest attempt most of the provisions in the draft version of the last bill are included, such as: licenses issued and policed by the Casino Control Commission; servers in Atlantic City and wagering restricted to New Jersey residents; a 21-year-old age limit; card games restricted to those available in Atlantic City land casinos; advertising restrictions; and the award of some of the revenues generated to the embattled horse racing industry.

Lesniak is sure this latest version of the bill addresses most of the governor's earlier concerns, particularly his desire to keep core operations in Atlantic City. Some indications that the senator has hit the right note with the governor is what Christie said in a press conference: “I think New Jersey should be in that [internet gambling] business. I think we should be a epicenter for that business, but I want to do it right. I do not want to rush and get legislation that either doesn’t pass state constitutional muster, or creates other problems for us.”

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