Christie said he supports Internet gambling.
TRENTON, N.J. — It may be up to New Jersey voters to decide whether to allow online betting in the state.
An Internet gambling bill that was going to be fast-tracked through the Legislature if Gov. Chris Christie gave his support is being held up because the state Constitution may require the question to be put to voters.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who is sponsoring the measure in the Assembly, said a panel in that chamber won't hear the bill Thursday, the final committee meeting day of the session.
Sen. Ray Lesniak, the Senate sponsor, pulled the bill off a Senate committee agenda late Wednesday.
Burzichelli said legal issues have to be worked out to be sure the bill complies with the state constitution. He said a constitutional amendment may be the only way to make Internet gambling legal in New Jersey. Lesniak said he believes Internet gambling can be achieved legislatively and that a voter-approved constitutional amendment isn't required.
That means the bill will die in the waning days of the current session and will need to be reintroduced when a new session starts next week.
Christie vetoed an online gambling bill in March that would have made New Jersey the first state to allow Internet betting. He said he had legal concerns and feared the legislation created the undesirable possibility of Internet gambling houses opening throughout the state.
The current bill prohibits that.
"I recognize that the complex issues surrounding Internet wagering will take more time to iron out than we are afforded in the waning days of the current Legislative session," Lesniak said Wednesday. "This isn't a question of 'if' New Jersey gets Internet wagering, but 'when.' My money's on soon."
Earlier Wednesday, Christie said he supports Internet gambling if it complies with the constitution and is focused in Atlantic City.
"I think New Jersey should be in that business, I think we should be an epicenter for that business, but I want to do it right," Christie said while taking questions from reporters in New Brunswick. "I do not want to rush legislation that either does not pass state constitutional muster or creates other problems for us."
The U.S. Justice Department in December ruled that in-state Internet gambling does not violate federal law, opening the door for states to approve online betting within their borders.
The New Jersey bill would let patrons create online accounts with the casinos; they would have to be physically present in New Jersey when placing online bets.
Online betting would provide the struggling Atlantic City casinos with a new revenue stream.
The state's voters in a ballot question last November said they want the legal right to bet on football, baseball and other sports, provided a federal ban is lifted.
Bills not passed and sent to the governor by Monday must be reintroduced in the next session. Lesniak said the bill would be reintroduced soon.