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Christie signs online gaming bill, legalizing practice in New Jersey

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Gov. Chris Christie this afternoon signed a bill to legalize online gaming in New Jersey, following his conditional veto of a similar measure earlier this month.

The law is expected to provide an advantage to Atlantic City's flagging fortunes, with gaming revenue continuing to slide further off the highs it set in 2006.

“I am confident that we are offering a responsible, yet exciting, option that will make Atlantic City more competitive while also bringing financial benefits to New Jersey as a whole,” Christie said late today in prepared remarks.

The amended bill, which moved quickly through the two houses, was conditionally vetoed earlier this month by Gov. Chris Christie, but lawmakers said they were confident changes suggested by the governor would be approved by both the Assembly and Senate.

The bill, A-2578, would allow Atlantic City casinos to set up online gaming sites. Christie's recommended changes would prohibit state employees and legislators from working for casinos or online gaming licensees, and force lawmakers to disclose past affiliations with licensees. It would also add additional funding for compulsive gambling treatment.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), said the bill's passage was a "true lifeline" to Atlantic City, and good news that the city hasn't heard in years. Lesniak also said that a statue should be erected of Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Northfield) outside of Atlantic City for his support of the bill.

In his veto message earlier this month, Christie called Internet gaming "a historic opportunity," but he said the state must move forward with care.

"Such a significant step must be carefully considered, balancing the benefits of job creation, economic development, and the continued revitalization of Atlantic City against the risks of addiction, corruption and improper influence," Christie said.

New Jersey's window to be a leader in this industry is closing, as other states have instituted or are developing online gaming laws. Current laws in other states and the proposal in New Jersey only allow intrastate gambling, largely because the federal government has not legalized such gaming across state borders. But advocates here have long called for Garden State to enact and implement its law so that the state can take the lead if Congress acts.

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