New Jersey’s state Assembly moved pretty quickly to vote on the revised online gambling bill – Bill A2578 – after it reappeared on the Assembly agenda earlier this month, securing approval by a near 2 to 1 margin in favor of the bill The measure passed after a 48-25-3 voting. From here, the bill moves to the state Senate later this week for another round of voting.
Should the bill pass the Senate, it will be presented to Governor Chris Christie who could then put his John Hancock and sign it into law. This isn’t the first time the bill has reached the governor’s desk but last time, it met an untimely demise after Christie vetoed the legislation last year.
Since then, a lot of things have happened that have shifted the landscape of online gaming in the country. Arguably the most important development was the US Department of Justice’s reinterpretation on the scope of the 1961 Wire Act that interstate bets that are not related to a “sporting event or contest” are not prohibited by the law. Following that interpretation, states began to move forward with their own online gambling legislation, including Illinois, which was at the forefront of initiating the sale of online lottery tickets, Delaware, one of the first to legalize online gambling, including casino and poker games, and Nevada, which is expected to launch an online poker program and have been doling out licenses to online gaming companies like Maltesers during Halloween.
And now, if Christie has had a change of mind, New Jersey could be next.
But that’s still the huge elephant in the room right now: what kind of mood the unpredictable governor will be in when he sees the bill on his desk. To his credit, his staff has been working closely with Senator Ray Lesniak, the main proponent of the bill, to revise a number of issues on the bill, but earlier attempts to get the bill passed this year netted pretty much the same results – the Senate passed their version in April, the Assembly approved an amended version in June – except instead of vetoing it, Christie didn’t do anything about it.
Now the bill is back up for vote and has already cleared the state Assembly. Sen. Lesniak is also confident that the state Senate will pass the legislation, leaving it all up to Governor Christie again.
The ball, once again, is in your court, Governor.