03/12/2012 : NEW JERSEY REFERENDUM ON INTERNET GAMBLING NOT NECESSARY, SAYS EXPERT (Update)
Law academic opines that new online gambling bill will not impact the state constitution as lawmakers study the possibilities
John B. Wefing, a Seton Hall University Law Professor since 1968, told a New Jersey House of Assembly committee Monday that there was no requirement for lawmakers to submit a new intrastate online gambling legalization measure to a referendum of residents – a key question that has been generating political debate.
Testifying before the House Wagering and Tourism Committee, Wefing said that such a bill would not violate the state constitution’s provision that Atlantic City have a gaming monopoly, because any online bet would not be completed until a server in Atlantic City accepted the wager.
State voters in 1976 approved a ballot question that gave Atlantic City that unique status on gambling, aside from horse racing and the state lottery, he reminded lawmakers, noting that the law memorialising that decision was “broad” in terms of what sort of gambling would be permitted.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli said that the committee would “digest” various opinions, such as Wefing’s, then decide whether to present a bill that does not require a referendum in November.
Burzichelli said that the Assembly members are now turning their attention to the state budget, so it would be several weeks before an online gambling bill comes up for a committee vote.
The Legislature overwhelmingly passed an online poker bill last March, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed it, citing constitutional objections.
This time around, Christie is working with the bill’s sponsors, such as state Sen. Ray Lesniak, and he has additionally asked for guidance from the state Attorney General’s office on whether the bill is constitutional.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, a former Atlantic City casino executive, said that he would prefer to see the question put to voters in November even if it is not mandatory.