New Jersey Online Poker Bill Delayed 6 Weeks

Posted by on Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

A bill to regulate online poker and gambling in New Jersey failed to move forward through the state legislature, causing the measure to be put on hold for six weeks as legislators focus on budgetary issues affecting the Garden State.

The bill is similar to a proposal that did advance through the New Jersey legislature last year, only to receive a veto stamp on the desk of Governor Chris Christie amid concerns of violating the state constitution if gambling were to expand beyond Atlantic City. This time around, the governor’s staff is diligently working with one of the bill’s sponsor’s, Senator Raymond Lesniak, to write the legislation in such a fashion that Christie will approve.

John B. Wefing, a law professor at Seton Hall, recently told the New Jersey Wagering and Tourism Committee that the state’s constitution is fine as is, allowing for online gambling in the state, provided that the servers accepting wagers for Internet poker and gambling are based in Atlantic City. “There is no need to amend our constitution since casino gaming was authorized under it,” Wefing said.

Lesniak and the bill’s other sponsor, Senator Jim Wehlan, will now have to wait to table S1565 until late April, when they will again attempt to have their fellow legislators vote on their Internet gambling proposal.

The delay will put New Jersey further behind Nevada in the race to be the first state to offer online poker on an intrastate format. Mark Lipparelli, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, recently said that he expects his office to begin sifting through the list of over two dozen applicants that have applied to provide Internet poker in the Silver State. The goal is to have online poker sites up and running in Nevada sometime in autumn.

“The process from here will see license applicants appearing on our public agendas in May/June,” Lipparelli said. “For the successful license applicants, the last step in turning the systems on will be a technical evaluation, and although we’re not certain how long this process will take, it’s plausible, even likely, that you’ll see the first set of systems approved for initial deployment by the fall.”

Recently, states other than Nevada who have attempted to pass online poker legislation have had setbacks. In addition to New Jersey’s 6-week delay, Hawaii, Iowa and Mississippi have also proposed Internet poker and gambling statutes as of late, but failed to obtain the required legislative support. Just like New Jersey, California has active bills before its state legislature. Only time will tell if the Golden State will join the states not able to pass recent legislation, or if lawmakers can successfully enact regulations similar to that of their neighboring state of Nevada. California’s huge population and estimated player base of 2 million is seen by industry observers as being crucial to any interstate online poker schemes that may eventually come to fruition.

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