TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill legalizing Internet gambling, making his state the third in the nation to offer online betting.
The measure was signed into law Tuesday afternoon just hours after it won overwhelming approval in the state Assembly and Senate.
Earlier this month, the legislature approved a different online gambling bill that was vetoed by Christie who called for slight changes to the measure.
The modifications Christie called for that are in the new measure include a 10-year trial period and higher taxes on casinos’ online winnings.
Patrons would set up online accounts with one or more Atlantic City casinos, which would use special software to verify a player’s age. Once the program is operational, which could take six months to a year, gamblers could play any game now offered in Atlantic City casinos, including electronic versions of slots and table games.
The bill was sponsored by online gambling advocate State Sen. Ray Lesniak and State Sen. Jim Whelan. After passage, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney praised the lawmakers for their work in legalizing online betting.
“I want to thank Senators Lesniak and Whelan for their tireless advocacy on Internet gaming. Their work will ensure that New Jersey remains ahead of the curve on this issue. It will also help bring jobs to a state that has seen decades’ high unemployment and stagnant economic growth,” said Sweeney.
Approval of online gambling represents the largest expansion of legalized gambling in New Jersey since the first casino began operating in Atlantic City in 1978.
Nevada and Delaware have passed laws legalizing Internet betting, which also is going on offshore, untaxed and unregulated.
“Finally, some good news for Atlantic City’s future,” said Lesniak, one of the strongest proponents of online gambling. “Internet gaming will give an immediate boost to the outlook for Atlantic City’s future, preventing the closing of at least one casino, and saving thousands of jobs. Now we can get to work making Atlantic City the Silicon Valley of Internet gaming by being the hub for other states to join.”
The idea is to help the struggling casinos by attracting new gamblers who are not now visiting the casinos. The comps, like free hotel rooms, show tickets, meals or other freebies, would be accrued from online play, but would have to be redeemed in person at a casino, presumably enticing a player to spend more money while there.
“Atlantic City casinos will be the ones that get to take these bets, so it might help those companies. They’ll get some extra revenue,” Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Berzon told WCBS 880. “I think it’s really all up in the air what it’s really going to mean for the actual brick and mortar casinos.”
“Atlantic City’s been in decline for quite a while now, but this is another attempt to try to see if they can help some of those companies there,” Berzon added.
The bill will not take effect until the state Division of Gaming Enforcement sets a start date, sometime between three and nine months after the law is signed. Casino executives have estimated it could take six months to a year to get the system up and running.
The measure will allow the playing online, for money, of any game currently offered by Atlantic City’s 12 casinos; online poker is expected to be a particularly popular option.
Gamblers would have to set up online accounts with a particular casino, and could set daily limits on their play. They also would be subject to the same per-hand limits as gamblers physically present in the casino. Casino executives say final rules have to be approved by the gambling enforcement division, but they expect the state to require gamblers to have to appear in person at a casino to open their accounts and verify their age, identity and other personal information. Payouts could be made remotely to a credit card account or bank account when a player cashes out, if the state approves such an arrangement, the executives said.