Legislators are moving forward with a bill to legalize Internet gambling, with the full Assembly expected to vote on the measure Monday and the Senate possibly as early as Thursday.
At the same time, the governor, through his office, is quiet on whether he intends to sign the measure should it be approved.
Spokesman Sean Conner said Gov. Chris Christie would have no comment on the proposed legislation. Christie has vetoed similar bills in the past, citing concerns such as the proliferation of neighborhood cafes promoting Internet gambling.
New Jersey would not be the first state to legalize online gambling — Nevada and Delaware legislators recently passed similar laws — but state lawmakers said they want to be among the early adopters.
“Internet gambling is the future,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester. “It’s the ultimate convenience gambling.”
A similar bill was taken up by the Legislature over the summer but languished on the floor due to concerns Christie would not sign it.
Following the November elections, lawmakers resumed work on the bill, amending the language of the bill, including setting the tax rate at 10 percent, state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said.
“We think 10 percent is low enough to attract the investment,” he said.
Other language also was inserted, specifically to address Christie’s concerns regarding neighborhood gambling halls, such as fining organizations or businesses other than Atlantic City casinos $1,000 per player per day if they make their premises available for Internet gambling and $10,000 for advertising their premises for such purposes.
The bill also opens the door to offshore companies partnering with Atlantic City casinos to offer Internet gambling, directing the Division of Gaming Enforcement to consult with the U.S. Department of Justice before issuing its recommendation to the Casino Control Commission, which is responsible for licensure.
Whelan argued the provision would give regulators — not lawmakers — the discretion to conduct background checks and thoroughly research license applicants.
“I don’t have the ability or the investigatory power to go and find out what any of these companies have done overseas,” he said. “If there are significant problems (regulators) can disqualify them.”
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