New Jersey Becomes Third U.S. State to Legalize Online Poker

Posted at 08:25 2013-02-27 by Matthew Kredell

A two-year will-he-or-won't-he saga ended Tuesday as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finally signed into law a bill to license and regulate online poker in the Garden State.

After making the poker community wait until the final day of his 45-day window to sign or veto bills the previous two times the legislation hit his desk, Christie promptly signed only minutes after the New Jersey state legislature approved the changes made by Christie earlier this month in a conditional veto by a vote of 68-5-1 in the assembly and 35-1 in the senate.

New Jersey becomes the third state to authorize online poker behind Nevada and Delaware, and follows the latter as the only states to approve full casino-style online gambling.

The legislature passed the bill with the exact changes made by Christie in his conditional veto, the biggest of which were increasing the tax on gross revenues from 10 to 15 percent, raising the funds earmarked for compulsive gambling programs from $150,000 to $250,000 a year, and adding a time limit of 10 years for the authorization of online gambling unless re-established by law.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, the bill's leading sponsor, first introduced legislation to to license and regulate Internet gambling in January of 2010. The bill was approved by the state legislature in January of 2011 only to be vetoed by Christie on the last possible day in March.

After Christie indicated he had come around on the idea of online gaming during his state of the state address in January of 2012, Lesniak reintroduced the legislation with a few changes to address concerns brought up by Christie in his initial veto. Last December, the state legislature once again passed the bill. Christie waited until the last day to offer his conditional veto on Feb. 7, but this time the veto was viewed as a victory for outlining minor changes that would get the governor's signature.

Lesniak originally didn't expect to be able to put the legislation back on Christie's desk until March 18 because that was the next voting day on the state senate's schedule at the time of the conditional veto. Citing the importance of moving quickly to compete with Nevada and Delaware, which are expected to have online poker up and running by the end of this year, Lesniak negotiated an emergency resolution to pass the changes three weeks earlier on a day when both houses were meeting to discuss the state budget.

Lesniak expects the virtual cards to be in the air for New Jersey's online poker sites this fall.

Only casinos located within Atlantic City will be able to host Internet gaming sites. Initially, they will only be able to serve people located within New Jersey's borders, but the bill allows for the possibility that agreements could be made to combine liquidity with other states and perhaps foreign countries in the future.

The law is expected to mark the return of PokerStars to U.S. soil. It's parent company, Rational Group, is currently seeking state regulatory approval to buy the struggling Atlantic Club Hotel Casino, which otherwise likely would have closed.

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