Online Poker Is Near for New Jersey

Less than two weeks into 2011, a new hope has risen among online poker proponents in the United States. While prospects for federal online gambling legislation are decidedly grim with the new post-election Congress coming in, some states have taken the issue into their own hands. Leading the pro-poker pack is New Jersey whose State Assembly just today passed egaming bill A2570 with an overwhelming majority of 63-11.

As we reported back in November, the New Jersey State Senate has already passed the bill, with another significant majority of 29-5. The appropriate gaming and regulation committees have also approved the bill, leaving only Governor Chris Christie in the way. Governor Christie has thus far refrained from publicly commenting on his stance on egaming, though many believe that his platform of revenue generation will sway him in favor of the new legislation.

Governor Christie has 45 days to act. He can sign the bill into law at any time, absolutely veto it or conditionally veto it. In the latter case, the bill would go back to Congress for any necessary changes. If Governor Christie refrains from either approving or condemning the bill, then it will become law nevertheless at the end of the 45-day period. Per the bill’s current plan of action, it will not only become law in the next month, but it will go into effect on July 4. The significance of that date is no coincidence.

While the New Jersey bill represents an important step toward fully legalizing online gambling in the United States, it’s not as revolutionary as much of the press has made it out to be. While it will indeed make online gambling legal in the state of New Jersey, it won’t make it legal outside of the state. Furthermore, while the bill will cover virtually all forms of online gambling – poker, casino games, sports betting – it will only cover gaming within the state, both in regards to the approved sites and to the players.

In related news, three other states are also considering intrastate Internet gambling legislation. California has been working toward tribe-related online gaming allowances for most of the past year, but the biggest obstacle for that legislation has actually been other tribes with existing gambling interests. On the opposite coast, Florida is also considering online gambling legislation via the bill HB77.

Finally, there’s been an unprecedented push from Iowa citizens for their state to pass some form of online gambling legislation. A recent survey showed that more than 150,000 of the state’s residents already engage in online gambling, making the regulation of such activities a priority for Iowa legislators with gambling platforms.

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