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Fool Me Once...

Challenge to New Jersey governor dooms online gaming bill

Fool Me Once...

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has the advantage of being one of the most powerful governors in the United States by virtue of the statutory control he has over the state. So when he vetoed an online gaming bill sponsored by state Senator Ray Lesniak (l.) last February, he outlined extensively his objections to the bill.

Lesniak vowed to re-introduce the bill, which was passed overwhelmingly by the legislature, and address all of Christie’s concerns. Those concerns included the legality of the bill as seen by the U.S. Department of Justice, the possible proliferation of online gambling parlors in New Jersey’s towns and counties, and several other issues. But Lesniak has decided to insist that revenue derived from the bill be designated to help the state’s struggling racing industry. This is a non-starter for Christie, who ended a $30 million annual purse subsidy that the casino industry had been paying to racing interests. He also sold the two state-owned racetracks, getting the state out of the racing business.

Lesniak is undeterred, however. He believes that the state must assist the racing industry, saying the governor should “lighten up” on the industry. He cites the recent shutdown of one of the state’s largest horse farms, Perretti Farms.

Lesniak wants to take some of the casinos’ cut of online gaming revenue to subsidize the racing industry for five years. His previous bill had racing’s cut coming from the state’s percentage.

Lesniak is also rejecting another Christie objection, which was to let the people decide if they wanted online gaming in the state via referendum. Lesniak says it isn’t necessary, and the legislature can make that choice. Polls show that a majority of New Jersey voters would not approve online gaming.


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