New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak said the Internet gambling bill he had hoped to pass through the Senate on Thursday likely will not be voted on until fall.
Lesniak, who introduced the legislation along with State Sen. Jim Whalen, had been pointing for more than a month at May 31 as the day the bill would be approved. Lesniak said the bill did not have the votes to be addressed on Thursday.
"Because of Gov. Christie’s ambivalence on it and him sending messages that he doesn’t want it to go through until the fall, we’re having trouble getting enough Democratic votes to pass it because of opposition from the racing industry," Lesniak said in a phone interview. "We’re going to work on it until the end of June and see if we can get it done by getting the governor’s support or getting the Democratic votes."
Christie vetoed Lesniak’s similar Internet gambling legislation last year. That bill included earmarking some Internet gambling revenue to supplement the state’s horse racing industry. In January, Christie indicated that he had come around on the idea of allowing Atlantic City casinos to host online gaming websites. One of the changes in the bill to gain Christie’s support was removing the racing supplement.
Lesniak told PokerNews earlier this month that Christie appeared to be wavering in his support because of his national political ambitions.
Last week, Christie stepped out on the issue of sports betting, seemingly indicating he was not afraid to take a controversial stance. Lesniak was thrilled with that result but doesn’t think it means the governor will go out on a similar limb for Internet gambling.
"Allowing sports betting is a real popular issue," Lesniak said. "Internet gaming is more dicey and also has opposition from this guy Sheldon Adelson, who is a big supporter and fundraiser. He’s come out strongly against it. That coincided with the governor taking a step back from where he was."
Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, could be a key figure in supporting Republican Mitt Romney’s run for president. Christie is considered a possible running mate for Romney.
Lesniak, who up to this point had been optimistic about getting the Internet gambling bill on the governor’s desk before the New Jersey legislature takes July and August off, now admits it is a long shot.
"It seems likely we can do it in the fall, but the longer we wait the more uncertainty there is about it," Lesniak said. "The governor has shifted his position more than once, so maybe he’ll shift it again and we can get this done before the fall. Only time will tell."
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