I started working on this post over a week ago and never got around to finishing it until now, so it's old news that New Jersey governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill, passed overwhelmingly by both legislative houses, that would have legalized internet wagering in the state.
But this is an ongoing story, not only in New Jersey, where efforts to legalize online gambling, perhaps by referendum, will continue, but also, quite significantly, around the country. Some states are attempting to circumvent the federal law, tucked into a port security measure in 2006, that effectively banned internet gambling by prohibiting financial companies from processing gambling transactions across state lines.
The state efforts, proponents say, would steer clear of the federal ban by limiting access to the sites to people using them from inside the state, which proponents say is technologically possible. [Wall St Journal]Indeed, a bill to legalize online poker has been introduced in Nevada; and similar moves are underway in Iowa, Florida and California.
Back to New Jersey, in an attempt to conform to the state Constitution, which permits casino gambling only in Atlantic City, the proposal called for the computer servers to be located in that city. But Christie would have none of that.
“In my view, the creation of a legal fiction deeming all wagers to have ‘originated’ in Atlantic City cannot overcome the clear and unambiguous language of the State Constitution,” he said in the veto. [Metropolis]The governor thereby declared that the matter would have to be put to the voters via referendum.
However, there was more than constitutional concerns at play here.
[Christie] also said the provision of the bill which would use funds generated from online gambling to subsidize horse racing conflicts with his goal to make horse racing a self-sustaining industry. [Star Ledger]Christie has surely been consistent on his goal of getting the state out of the racing business. Last week, eight entities submitted proposals to lease Monmouth, which lost $6.1 million last year. April 1 is the target date for Jeff Gural to raise enough money to implement his plans at the Meadowlands. The governor had previously vetoed the tracks' request for full season racing dates. And though he signed a bill which would grant the tracks a far smaller subsidy from the casino industry than they've received in years past, Matt Hegarty explained last month that he could still veto the actual distribution of funds.
On the other hand, and also consistent with his stated goal, he agreed to permit the building new off track wagering facilities, (no doubt a key factor in attracting any interest in Monmouth and the Meadolwands), and to allow exchange wagering (perhaps a reason why BetFair/TVG was one of the bidders for the thoroughbred track).
I do think it's perfectly fair for Christie to insist that the tracks stand on their own; and his approval of the OTB's, as well as exchange and single-pool wagering at least shows that he's put some effort into familiarizing himself with the industry (as opposed to governors past and present in a certain state just to the north). However, by siding with the casinos on the issues of slots and subsidies (which are not after all taxpayer monies), he denies the tracks their best shot at competing with surrounding states with VLT's. And his support for a bailout for Atlantic City (not to mention for the trainwreck Xanadu project) strikes me as more than a little hypocritical.
As you might have read, Christie has achieved "rock star" status thanks in part to the You Tube videos of his slamdowns of those who dare to question or oppose his policies. There are those who are urging him to seek national office, and he recently smugly declared that he could win the presidency if he chose to run; but that he's not ready. And, of course, he's not. Regardless, he's the type of candidate who would scare me. He's a smart guy, charismatic, well-spoken, and makes a pleasing appearance even if he's a little plump. But what really makes him scary is what he's not - an adulterer, a religious radical, a panderer, a flip-flopper,