NJ seeks Christie blessing on Internet gambling

January 4, 2012 5:49:37 AM PST
New Jersey legislators are waiting for a signal from Gov. Chris Christie that he would sign an Internet gambling bill before they commit to speed it through the last few days of the legislative session.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, an Elizabeth Democrat, wants the legislature to consider his bill that would legalize online gambling in New Jersey as long as it's done within the state's borders by New Jersey residents only. Those conditions are needed to comply with a ruling last month by the U.S. Justice Department that in-state online bets - not involving sports teams - do not violate federal law.

A Senate committee will consider the bill Thursday. Assemblyman John Burzichelli, a southern New Jersey Democrat, said he wants to be sure Christie would sign the bill before racing it through the final days of the session.

If committees in both houses approve the bill, it could be fast-tracked for final votes Jan.9, and sent to Christie's desk. So far the governor has been mum on the topic. His press secretary, Michael Drewniak, did not respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

New Jersey nearly became the first state in the nation to legalize Internet betting last year. But Christie vetoed the bill in March, fearing it would violate federal law and lead to the proliferation of back-room Internet betting parlors in restaurants and bars across the state.

Supporters say the Justice Department ruling should remove any doubt about illegality, and the bill includes stiff fines for anyone operating an unauthorized betting room.

The bill would reserve Internet betting solely for the Atlantic City casinos. Patrons would create online accounts with the casinos, and would have to be physically present in New Jersey when placing online bets.

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