LAVALLETTE — Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that he will quickly sign an Internet gambling bill if lawmakers make the changes he wants to the legislation.
At an appearance in Lavallette, the governor said he could conceivably sign the bill the same day the Legislature approved those changes, or the next day, “depending on how my day is going.”
Assuming the state Assembly and Senate approve an amended bill, “There’s no reason not to sign it quickly,” Christie said.
Both houses are set to consider the bill next week, and lawmakers say they are willing to make the changes Christie asked for when he vetoed it this month. They include a 10-year trial period on Internet gambling and higher taxes on the casinos’ online winnings.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the staunchest supporters of online gambling, said there is a commitment in both houses to getting a revised bill passed and on Christie’s desk Feb. 26. Both houses will meet that day to hear the governor’s budget address.
New Jersey is trying to become the third state to approve Internet gambling, after Nevada and Delaware. It wants to become a national hub of online betting, which many in the industry see as an inevitable, profitable expansion of legalized gambling.
Atlantic City’s 12 casinos would run the online operations.
On Feb. 7, Christie for a second time vetoed an Internet gambling bill approved by the state Legislature. In his veto message, the governor said he is fundamentally supportive of Internet gambling, but he asked for changes including raising the tax on the casinos inline winnings from the proposed 10 percent to 15 percent.
Christie also wants a 10-year trial period for online gambling, after which the program can be evaluated by lawmakers. He also recommended a series of ethical and legal protections to make sure Internet gambling is done transparently, including having lawmakers disclose any past or present representation of companies seeking online gambling licenses.
If Christie signs a future bill, it would represent the largest expansion of legalized gambling in New Jersey since the first casino opened there in 1978.