The latest scuttlebutt in the ‘will he/won’t he’ drama surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Feb. 7 deadline to sign the state’s online gambling legislation comes from Global Gaming Business publisher Roger Gros, whose sources told him Christie was leaning toward a ‘conditional veto’ of the bill. That would allow Christie to claim objections to specific parts of the bill and send it back to the legislature for amending. NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan speculated that the full-spectrum gaming approach of the bill would be where Christie would make his stand; the solution being for the legislature to amend the bill to poker-only, similar to legislation passed in Nevada.
As Christie hems and haws, critics are getting bolder with their accusations that Christie is failing in his stated goal to revitalize Atlantic City’s struggling casino industry. On Thursday, Bob McDevitt, president of the local casino workers union, called on Christie to approve the online gambling bill to preserve “more than 3,000 jobs.” McDevitt released a statement saying the extra revenue from online gaming “could make the difference between two or more casinos staying open or closing.”
But not all voices are supporting the online gaming bill. Poker Players Alliance exec director John Pappas met with Christie staffers on Tuesday, and PokerNews reported that one staffer told Pappas the number of anti-gambling phone calls coming into Christie’s office was triple that of the pro-gambling side. Pappas said he was skeptical about this disparity, but with only a week to go until the deadline, Pappas urged the PPA’s New Jersey resident members to call the governor’s office to make sure their voice is heard.
It’s widely assumed that online poker giant PokerStars’ bid to acquire the Atlantic Club casino-hotel – whose 1,729 employees are facing layoffs if the deal doesn’t go through – is predicated on the bill receiving Christie’s okay. (On Tuesday, Roger Gros offered this enigmatic tweet: “Today, I put together an Atlantic City casino company and a possible internet gaming buyer. PokerStars buy of the A Club is just the start.”)
PokerStars would presumably be content if Christie were to insist on a poker-only option, so the casino acquisition is likely to proceed either way, assuming Stars gets the nod from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. I. Nelson Rose, noted gaming lawyer and author of Gaming Law In A Nutshell, told BuzzFeed he thinks the odds of PokerStars getting a New Jersey gaming license “are very good. Stars has been smart and lucky, and history is on their side. Thirty years ago, I would have said that nobody involved with illegal gambling could get a casino license. Now everybody seems to think that if enough time has passed and you change your executives, then it’s okay.”