A closer look at the New Jersey online gaming bill
Nevada will always be the first state that legalized online poker, and Delaware will always be the second, but when it comes to overall importance it’s hard to argue against New Jersey’s place in online poker history now that the state has officially passed a bill legalizing online gaming (including online poker) in the Garden State. The importance of New Jersey legalizing online gaming cannot be understated considering the state has three times the population of Nevada and Delaware combined, and is one of the few states where intra-state online poker is considered sustainable in the long-run.
The original bill met with a conditional veto from Governor Chris Christie earlier this month after the governor waited the full 45 days before making his decision on online gaming in New Jersey. By issuing a conditional veto Governor Christie basically said he was willing to sign the bill into law provided state lawmakers made the necessary changes he laid out. Not only did the New Jersey senate and legislature make the changes (virtually verbatim from Chris Christie’s conditional veto) but the bill breezed through both houses, passing by a 35-to-1 margin in the State Senate and a 68-to-5 vote in the State Legislature with one absent vote.
The changes Governor Christie called for were:
* A 5% tax increase placed on online gaming providers, bringing the tax rate from 10% to 15%
* Increasing the funding for compulsive and problem gambling programs from $150,000 to $250,000
* Calling for the online gaming legislation to be reevaluated after a 10 year time frame
According to reports, State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who introduced the bill and has been the leading proponent of legalized online gambling in the state, fast-tracked the revised bill, using an emergency resolution to bring the bill to a vote while both the State Senate and State Legislature were in town for budget talks. The bill was then sent to Governor Chris Christie who promptly signed it into law; about a month before even the most optimistic among us thought was possible.
With the bill now official the path is now clear for PokerStars to return to the United States thanks to their settlement with the US Department of Justice which allows the site to apply for US licenses where local laws allow. PokerStars’ parent company, the Rational Group, has agreed to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and is now simply awaiting approval from the state before taking over the struggling casino and setting itself to apply for an online gaming license in New Jersey. Much like Nevada, currently licensed Brick & Mortar casinos in New Jersey licenses will be given preferential treatment during the initial stages of the licensing process.
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