N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, Silicon Valley want legalized online gambling

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19 2013 10:20 a.m. MST

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question in his outer office at the Statehouse Thursday, March 3, 2011, in Trenton, N.J.

Mel Evans, Associated Press

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Online gambling is now legal only in Nevada and Delaware. But a front-page article in Monday’s New York Times detailed how tech industry behemoths like Facebook and Zynga are betting big that U.S. markets will soon open the floodgates to the revenue streams that could come from legalizing and taxing online gambling.

“Companies (in Silicone Valley) believe that online gambling will soon become as simple as buying an e-book or streaming a movie, and that the convenience of being able to bet from your couch, surrounded by virtual friends, will offset the lack of glittering ambience found in a real-world casino,” David Streitfeld wrote for the Times. “… Legislative progress (to legalize online gambling), though, is slow. Opponents include an influential casino industry wary of competition and the traditional antigambling factions, who oppose it on moral grounds.”

All signs point to New Jersey soon becoming the third state to legalize online gambling. On Feb. 7, Gov. Chris Christie slapped a “conditional veto” on legislation that would’ve made online gambling legal in the Garden State — with the key word being “conditional,” because Christie has made it abundantly clear he’s ready to sign a similar bill into law if the New Jersey Legislature raises the proposed tax on online gambling from 10 percent to 15 percent.

“Gambling advocates are thrilled with (Christie’s) decision,” UPI reported on Feb. 7. “(They think) allowing online gambling — at about double the tax rate than on revenues from brick and mortar casinos — will help a struggling Atlantic City industry stay afloat.”

In addition to seeking online gambling revenue for his state, Christie is also fighting to make New Jersey only the fifth state in which sports gambling is permitted. (Betting on sports is considered illegal under federal law except in Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.)

As Bloomberg noted last week, in January 2012 Christie signed a law that “would permit wagering on professional and college sports at racetracks and Atlantic City casinos,” but that law is now in limbo due to NCAA v. Christie — a “lawsuit (that) was filed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and several professional sports organizations to stop the law from taking effect.”

On Thursday a federal judge heard oral arguments in NCAA v. Christie. Following the hearing, Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel wrote, “The initial battle (has begun) in a long legal war over a potentially seismic shift in the way sports are consumed in America. … The loser of this initial decision — expected in a few weeks — will certainly appeal and the loser of that appeal will certainly appeal and so on. The case seems destined for consideration by the Supreme Court in 2015 or 2016.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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