In order for online gambling regulations to be enacted on a state-by-state basis, each individual state will typically need approval from the governor of the state to advance legislation. Although lawmakers in both Illinois and New Jersey are trying hard to pass online gambling laws that will greatly benefit cash-strapped state coffers, the governors of both states have not wholeheartedly endorsed the proposals.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has flip-flopped on the issue a couple times already. He vetoed an online gambling bill last year. Following the U.S. Department of Justice clarification of the 1961 Wire Act as being applicable only to sports betting in December, he then said he was for online poker and gambling, saying that New Jersey “should be in that business.” Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the sponsor of the legislation, proceeded to amend his proposal to satisfy the governor’s wishes, only to see Christie once again waver on the issue. Industry scuttlebutt has it that the Garden State governor has his eye on the vice-presidential ticket alongside Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. And with Las Vegas Sands honcho Sheldon Adelson vehemently opposed to online poker, Christie is apparently afraid to anger the billionaire casino mogul who donates heavily to Republican causes.
Lesniak has now been forced to shelve his proposal for a few months, as Christie “has signaled that he wants to wait until the fall to act on this,” Lesniak told SportsBookReview.com. Just a few months ago, New Jersey was thought to be a strong player in the race with Nevada to be the first state to offer intrastate online poker. Lesniak had even said that poker sites could be up and running in the state in the fall of this year. But due to the whims of the wishy-washy Christie, those plans have been thwarted. Lesniak, with optimism rivaling that of Mother Theresa, still holds out hope that New Jersey will have online poker by the end of 2012.
Christie is taking a different approach with sports betting. Less than two weeks ago, the Garden State governor said at a news conference that Atlantic City is moving forward with its efforts to allow casinos to accept wagers on the outcome of sporting events. This despite a 1991 federal law that allows only four states to legally make book in the U.S.–Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. New Jersey could have been added to the mix as a fifth state in ’91, but neglected to act in a timely fashion.
Christie expects to be challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice, but is intent on firmly holding his ground, unlike his wavering on the online gambling issue. “If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us,” Christie said of bringing sports betting to New Jersey. “Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to try to prevent it? Yes, but I have every confidence we’re going to be successful.” If only his stance on Internet gambling had the same steadfast resolve, instead of his on-again, off-again, flip-flopping that may be due to his own political aspirations, as opposed to what is good for his constituency.
In Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn is not rumored to be aiming for loftier political positions, nor is he flip-flopping on the online gambling issue. He is intent on solving the Prairie State’s other concerns, namely a restructuring of the pension and Medicaid programs of the state’s government employees–both current and retired–that is an excessive drain on the state’s budget. Quinn views the gambling expansion proposal that was approved by the Senate on a vote of 30-27 Thursday, just prior to the end of the current legislative session, as a distraction. That bill would expand gambling in the state by adding more casinos and allowing slot machines to be offered at the state’s horse racing tracks. The measure sits on the governor’s desk, but all indications are that he will veto it.
A proposal introduced during the legislative session that would have brought online gambling to Illinois and would have made the state “a hub for internet gambling around the world” was pulled from the agenda after its sponsor, State Senate President John Cullerton, felt that more time was needed to appease all of the state’s gambling interests. That bill was also expected to meet the disapproval of Gov. Quinn.