THE FIGHT: New Jersey Makes It Official

On Tuesday, New Jersey completed THE FIGHT to legalize and regulate online gambling. An intrastate online gambling law, similar to the one that Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed on February 7 but containing changes he had requested, was enacted by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. That makes New Jersey the third state to legalize online gambling.

California, Massachusetts and Iowa also made some headway this week in their separate efforts to bring online poker back to the United States.

An Iowa bill that would allow state casinos to operate intrastate online poker made it out of a State Senate subcommittee this week by a 2-1 vote. The bill is largely identical to one that was passed by the full Iowa Senate last year on a 29-20 vote. That bill was never taken up by the Iowa House of Representatives.

Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) told the subcommittee, “This bill is about protecting Iowa consumers who are in legal limbo now because of inaction by the feds.”

The Iowa bill still has a long road ahead of it. Even if it makes it to a full floor vote and passes in the Senate, the Iowa House would have to take it up. That’s what proved problematic last year.

California is several steps behind in its latest effort to legalize online poker. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) introduced a bill last week in the California Senate called the Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act. The act is thin on details right now as to how exactly internet poker would be authorized and regulated. It’s believed those details will come by amendment later in the legislative process.

Correa’s bill isn’t the only one kicking around the California Senate. Democrat Sen. Rod Wright has proposed a bill to allow all forms of online gambling to be offered by Native American tribes, race tracks, and other gambling businesses.

Whether either bill advances to the point that it’s signed into law will depend largely on whether California’s competing gambling interests can find common ground. A bill that was introduced by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) last year failed due to bitter divisions between and among the tribes, the tracks, California card rooms, brick-and-mortar gaming interests and online operators.

Back east, Massachusetts has taken up the online gaming torch. State Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Essex) has put forward legislation to authorize intrastate internet gaming under the regulatory guidance of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. That bill has been referred to committee; no action is expected on it until April at the earliest.

For supporters of online poker, it’s heartening to see all these bills making their way through the legislative process. But it’s critical to remember that each of these states has tried to legalize online gambling or online poker previously. THE FIGHT is still very much an uphill battle.

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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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