chris-christie-cardsAfter years of waffling and vetoing, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finally signed Assembly Bill A2578 into law this week, opening the door for online gambling to begin in a legalized, regulated environment in New Jersey.  The move came only a week after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval rapidly approved his state’s online gambling legislation; both states made sure they had provisions included that would allow for interstate compacts, so that gamblers from outside their specific jurisdictions could get in on the action.

But don’t fire up your computers just yet in either state.

Could Be Months Before Gambling Comes Online

Although the new bill stipulates that actual online wagering must begin in New Jersey between 90 and 180 days of the measure’s signing, Caesars Entertainment Corp. CEO Gary Loveman was dubious. Loveman said in an interview this week that the actual launch dates could be more like 18 to 24 months, and based on Nevada’s current not-much-faster-than-mud example, that’s probably more realistic: the Silver State’s earliest online poker licensees have already sought and received extensions on their original launch dates. Presumably, simply the mechanics and technology, particularly with the added element of interstate players and how taxes and regulations would work there, are extremely complex and unlike before the game was legalized, all i’s and t’s will need to be dotted and crossed before anything comes online.  Theoretically, however, online gambling could begin in New Jersey anywhere between June and September of this year.

Game On

Now that New Jersey has approved the online gambling measure, (becoming the third in the nation to do so, after Nevada and Delaware), the battle will begin to line up interstate compacts with other states who may have players jonesing to get in on other legalized states’ online action.  New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak said in a recent interview that New Jersey needs “to get aggressive in courting other states to hook up with us. I expect the momentum to grow once states see the success we’re having with it in New Jersey.”

New Jersey actually is least in need of interstate agreements of the three states that are ready to roll with online gambling. With a state population of approximately 9 million, compared to Nevada’s 2.8 million and Delaware’s mere 900,000, the Garden State has a huge advantage on the home court player base over its two closest competitors. Moreover, New Jersey is only requiring that wagering take place within state limits, rather than proving actual residency, which should open the door to possibly millions of weekend warriors who could simply drive over state lines with their laptops from New York and Pennsylvania.

Finally,, the largest online poker site (and with little top-level online competition now that it’s bought Full Tilt), is waiting to take over the Atlantic Club casino-hotel in Atlantic City, pending regulatory approval, and once that happens, you can bet they will be seeking online licensure in New Jersey. In contrast, they are forbidden from getting a Nevada license for at least five years, stemming from a “bad actor” provision that essentially denies felons and others who have broken the law from getting licenses.