Rumors have surfaced that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is considering a conditional veto on the Internet gambling bill that lawmakers approved in December.
Atlantic City insider Roger Gros, who publishes Global Gaming Business magazine, indicated that Christie may propose conditions or amendments and send the bill back to legislators. The Garden State governor has until Feb. 7 to make his decision. Christie’s options on the bill are to either sign, veto, or do nothing, in addition to suggesting conditions or modifications. If he chooses to do nothing, the bill would become law.
Should Christie veto the bill and propose amendments, the legislature can make the requested changes and send the bill back to the governor to once again peruse and perhaps sign into law. There is a possibility that Christie is thinking along the lines of changing the bill to permit only online poker, as opposed to legalizing all casino games.
That theory is plausible, considering that Christie recently expressed concerns that the current Internet gambling bill might prevent gamblers from visiting the struggling Atlantic City casinos. The governor also stated his belief that if New Jersey residents can freely and easily gamble on desktops and laptops, it might create a whole new breed of problem gamblers.
Though many in the industry scoff at both of those concerns as being misguided and uninformed, Christie does wield the power at this stage. The executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), John Pappas, had a 45-minute chat with one of Christie’s senior aides in Trenton on Tuesday to address those very concerns. Pappas said that the sit-down went very well and that he was able to expound on both issues.
Pappas made the valid argument that problem gamblers who walk into a casino and drop a ton of cash at the tables do so rather anonymously. Those same gamblers who perhaps lack control are tracked very thoroughly online, where every transaction is recorded. And in the case of people avoiding land-based casinos to play online, the PPA solution in regards to poker is for licensed casinos to offer online poker qualifying tournaments. The prize for winning online players would be free entries to live tournament events in Atlantic City.
While the PPA supports and lobbies for the online gambling bill before Christie because it would allow New Jersey residents to play online poker, the truth of the matter is the grassroots poker organization would like nothing more than for the governor to change the bill to allow only online poker and exclude other casino games. Whether or not that is the way that Christie is leaning with the rumored conditional veto is unclear at this time. We will find out the answer within the next seven days.