Online Poker a Vote Away in NJ

As of this week, the cash-strapped state of New Jersey got one big and important step closer to legalizing online gambling, including online poker. On November 22, the New Jersey Senate passed the proposed online gambling bill, S490, with a resounding 29 to 5 majority. It was a move that inspired glee in online casino and poker fans across America and outrage in the industry’s outmoded (and now out-voted) opponents.

What does this most recent vote mean? For one, the majority was so large that the bill is now impervious to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s power to veto. The next step is for the bill to go to floor before the New Jersey Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee. This step is purely technical as the Committee determines if the bill is fully in line with the state’s existing gaming regulations and legislation. The Committee is expected to either approve the bill or outline necessary changes later this winter.

How soon could online gambling become legal in New Jersey? Once S490 passes through the Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, its final stop is the State Assembly. That vote is expected to take place early in 2012, and both sides of the cause are already in New Jersey lobbying hard to garner the necessary yeas or nays. A majority vote in Assembly would essentially seal the deal, so New Jersey could be offering funds seizure-proof online gambling before this time next year.

The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA), threw in behind New Jersey long ago, and while they were quick to respond positively to the news, they’ve committed to lobbying even harder to push bill S490 through the all-important Assembly vote. The highly visible Poker Players Alliance (PPA), on the other hand, has yet to make an official comment on the progress of New Jersey’s online poker legislation.

Politicians in less online gambling-friendly states have also been getting press for their public reactions to New Jersey’s history-making move. The state of Washington went in the opposite direction by outright banning online gambling and has been generating headlines all year with a series of high profile funds seizures. So it’s no surprise that their anti-poker politicians, namely Senator Margarita Prentice, were among the first to be quoted on the topic.

Prentice’s dubious statement about the quality of life for aspiring poker players actually raises some interesting questions about how pros will respond to the legalization of online poker in New Jersey. A number of pros already live in Las Vegas for obvious reasons, but the combination of live action in Atlantic City and worry-free online action in the rest of the state might make New Jersey an appealing new home base for serious poker players.

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