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New Jersey In Last-Minute Scramble To Legalize Online Gambling, Votes Successfully On Poker Bill

Bill Could Go To Senate Vote And Then To Governor's Desk Before 2013

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Credit: Wikipedia

PokerStars potentially could be one step closer to an American return, thanks to some people in power within New Jersey pushing for a new law that they say could help the state’s beleaguered gambling industry and economically depressed Atlantic City.

As one lawmaker predicted to Card Player, the New Jersey online gambling bill passed the state Assembly on Monday, and now heads to the Senate for a full vote. State Assembly lawmakers voted in favor of the proposal by a 48-24-4 margin.

Sen. Ray Lesniak said earlier this month that the plan was to vote on the bill in the Assembly on Dec. 17, send it to the Senate on Dec. 20, and then immediately to the governor’s desk. A revised version of the proposal was released Dec. 3, after languishing untouched since June.

If it becomes law, the Garden State would be fourth behind the District of Columbia, Nevada and Delaware to legalize online gambling. D.C. repealed its legislation, however.

It’s unclear if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would sign the current proposal moving rapidly through the legislature before 2012 slams its doors shut. He vetoed a similar bill in 2011, but might like the changes made to the idea this time around and that the feds relaxed their position on intrastate gaming that takes real-money deposits.

As for PokerStars, the world’s most successful poker website, New Jersey represents a chance to get back into the U.S. after settling with the federal government — without admitting any wrongdoing — for alleged crimes listed in the historic Black Friday case.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story that the Isle of Man-based firm is looking to buy one of Atlantic City’s worst-performing casinos, for a potential price tag of under $50 million. PokerStars would need the brick-and-mortar joint to run web games.

If approved, New Jersey would be the largest state in terms of population to have the OK to run an intrastate web casino system. Nevada has about 2.7 million residents and Delaware about 910,000, while New Jersey contains about 8.8 million.

Ten percent of web casino revenue in New Jersey would go back to the state.