Casino Union Throws Its Support Behind NJ Online Gambling Legislation
For weeks there has been much talk and speculation with regard to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s plans for an Internet gambling bill that passed the state legislature last year and is now sitting on his desk, awaiting either signature or veto. And it is just those two options that have been the focus of much of the hubbub, as the “will he or won’t he” question continues to be debated.
Christie, who vetoed a similar bill back in 2011 citing concerns of a potential increase in problem gambling and a possible conflict with the state constitution limiting gambling to the confines of Atlantic City, also has a third option: he can choose to do nothing and let the bill take effect automatically. He has until February 7 to act, or, if he so chooses, not act.
Atlantic City’s casino union, UNITE-HERE, is urging Governor Christie to sign the bill into law, citing a need to stabilize jobs in a gambling market that has displayed a continuous decline in recent years. Revenue has declined by forty percent, which creates a dire situation for social programs in the city that are heavily, if not solely, reliant upon funding that originates with casino revenue.
“In the past several years, Atlantic City has suffered as the result of increased competition from neighboring states,” said Bob McDevitt. “The Internet gaming bill gives New Jersey the opportunity to change that.”
McDevitt, who heads the Local 54 chapter of UNITE-HERE, believes that the passage of the bill could help some of the smaller and financially worse-off casino properties in the city remain afloat.
The parent company of online poker room PokerStars has bid to purchase The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, a decaying property originally opened by Steve Wynn that was once the most profitable casino in Atlantic City. PokerStars has promised to renovate the property and restore it to its former glory, however the closure of the deal is reliant upon the enactment of the law.
“Ultimately, it could generate $1.5 billion in revenue and around $150 million in desperately need tax dollars for New Jersey. We believe that this increased revenue could make the difference between two or more casinos staying open or closing,” said McDevitt.
McDevitt implored Christie to sign the bill, stating that, “Keeping those casinos open means saving more than 3,000 jobs. This bill will allow Atlantic City to compete more effectively, increase tax revenues and save thousands of jobs. I urge Gov. Christie to sign it as soon as possible.”
Christie, who faces re-election this year, could also conditionally veto the online gambling bill, this according to a post last week on the North Jersey blog. According to a quote from the New Jersey legislature on the blog, a conditional veto is “a veto in which the Governor objects to parts of a bill and proposes amendments that would make it acceptable. If the Legislature re-enacts the bill with the recommended amendments, it is presented again to the Governor for signature.”
Specifically, Governor Christie may object to the rather sweeping nature of this legislation, which would clear the way not only for online poker games but also other forms of Internet-based casino gambling, such as online slots machines and classic casino games.
In this sense, the New Jersey bill share similarities with legislation already enacted in neighboring Delaware. Legislation passed in Nevada, thus far the only other state beside Delaware to pass a law allowing for Internet-based gambling, only permits online poker games.
The unfolding story in New Jersey has proven to be a captivating one, with conjecture swirling on both sides of the issue. All the anticipation should be put to rest next week, when the deadline for Christie to either move forward with or shut down the online gambling bill arrives.
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