Christie Has Doubts About New Jersey Online Gaming Bill

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie publicly expressed concerns about A-2578, the online gaming bill passed by the State Legislature in late December, on a New Jersey radio program last night.

During his monthly “Ask the Governor” show on radio station 101.5FM, Christie fielded a call from Joseph in Atlantic City, who asked whether the governor supports A-2578. In his first public remarks on the topic, Christie commented that he’s not sure that legalizing online gaming will help Atlantic City – one of the purported reasons the bill was passed.

“If people can gamble in their own homes on their laptops, why are they going to go to Atlantic City?” he asked rhetorically.

Christie also noted reservations about the proliferation of gambling addiction if gamblers are able to play from computers in their homes.

“If you can, you know, sit on the edge of your bed with your laptop and gamble away, you know, the paycheck, that’s a lot different than making the conscious decision of going down to Atlantic City to gamble in a casino.”

The governor said that he hasn’t made any final decision on signing or vetoing A-2578. He is continuing to peruse the bill himself and to read briefings on it provided by his staff. He acknowledged that he has to make a decision soon – the bill will automatically become law on February 4 if the governor takes no action before then.

This is not the first time that Christie has been put to a decision on an online gaming bill. He vetoed a similar bill in March 2011 on largely the same grounds and in part because of structural questions about the constitutionality of the bill. At that time, however, Atlantic City casinos were financially healthier than they are today.

New Jersey lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of A-2578, passing it 48-25 in the 80-seat State Assembly and 33-3 in the 40-seat State Senate. Despite that support, if Christie were to veto the bill, a legislative override would be unlikely. Such an action requires 27 votes in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly. Five of the seven Assemblymen who failed to vote on A-2578 are Republicans.

Christie’s full remarks on the subject:

“It’s sitting on my desk. I’ve got to make a decision very soon. I haven’t made a final decision yet but here are the two things I’m concerned about. First, I don’t know that it really will help Atlantic City. And I’m concerned that it may drive traffic away from Atlantic City. That if people can gamble in their own homes on their laptops, why are they going to go to Atlantic City? I think it’s contrary to what we’re trying to accomplish there.

“Secondly, I’m also really concerned about setting up a whole new generation of addicted gamblers. You know, if you can, you know, sit on the edge of your bed with your laptop and gamble away, you know, the paycheck, that’s a lot different than making the conscious decision of going down to Atlantic City to gamble in a casino.

“And so I’ve got those two concerns. I haven’t made a final decision yet. But I have those two concerns. You should know that that’s the way I feel. It’s in part the reasons that I vetoed the bill before, in addition to some ways that it was constructed that I thought made no sense either.

“I’m taking a very close look at it. I was reading it over the weekend and reading the briefing from my staff in-depth. I’m going to have to make a decision in the next couple of days.”

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Kevin McGrady

Legislative and Politics Beat Writer: Kevin McGrady practiced corporate law in New York City for eight years before moving to Las Vegas in 2008 to join the gaming industry. Kevin is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University School of Law.
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