• Doubt Shed on a Chris Christie About Face Related to Internet Gambling

    May 9, 2012
    John Brennan, reporter for the Bergen Record, shrugged off the notion that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has turned his back on legalizing Internet gambling and bringing sports betting to the Garden State.

    The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, expressed disillusionment with Christie’s perceived lack of interest in moving forward with the initiative to bring online gambling and sports wagering to New Jersey during a brief meeting with the Governor’s aides last week.

    “We were told … that the Atlantic City casinos have not made the case that Internet gaming is good for them,” Lesniak said of the meeting, which included bill co-sponsor State Sen. James Whelan (D., Atlantic). “Sen. Whelan and I were stunned. We were led to believe that there were only technical issues to clear up.”

    Lesniak also sent out an email to the Philadelphia Inquirer where he accused Christie of playing politics.

    “Christie is putting the future of A.C. in jeopardy because of his overriding concern for support from [Sheldon] Adelson, a right-wing money machine of Newt Gingrich and right-wing causes; Caesars, a huge contributor based in Nevada; and Woody Johnson, Jets owner and NFL opponent of sports gaming,”

    The Adelson excuse doesn’t pass the “smell” test as Christie is not running for anything that would require the Vegas billionaire’s approval. Christie, after all, still has to answer to his constituents in Atlantic City, many of whom are not exactly enamoured with Adelson at the moment. The vast majority of casino executives, whether they be based in Nevada or New Jersey or anywhere in between, want online gambling legalized whereas Adelson seems to be the only one speaking out against it, supposedly on “moral” grounds.

    Assuming Mitt Romney becomes the next US President this coming November, Christie would have to wait in line another 8 years for his shot at the Presidency, and presumably Adelson’s millions in campaign donations. By then, Adelson will be 86-years old, that is if he’s still alive.

    There is an off chance Christie might feel inclined to bow to Adelson in the event Romney chooses the colourful Jersey Governor as his running mate. The emphasis is on the word “colourful” and, we will add, “outspoken”, sometimes “belligerent”. Just the idea of Christie as the number two on the ticket (as opposed to the number one) seems difficult to fathom. Christie is viewed in many GOP circles as a more “formidable” opponent than Romney is to President Barack Obama. Romney will want to choose someone who still appeals to the party without stepping on his toes (i.e. a Marco Rubio).

    Brennan notes that Lesniak’s remarks come just days before a scheduled state Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee hearing will take place Thursday to discuss the online gambling/sports betting measure.

    Brennan offers his own take on what is transpiring in New Jersey politics regarding this matter:

    Such needling isn’t necessarily good for online betting supporters. Christie always has seemed lukewarm at best on such matters as it is, so he wouldn’t lose any sleep, it seems, on seeing gambling issues languish.

    But this is Jersey, don’t forget – blunt talk is not foreign to politicians, and Christie and Lesniak battle one day and collaborate the next. For instance, the tax breaks that Christie lauds for getting the $2.4 billion Revel casino finished in Atlantic City last month was a Lesniak-sponsored bill.

    For whatever reason, Christie seems reluctant to show his cards on gambling matters. He’ll have to make some decisions eventually – but maybe not until this fall, if the state Senate and Assembly don’t send him a revised online gaming bill by the time they take July and August off as their long summer break.

    - Chris Costigan

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