Should sports betting and/or online poker become legalized in the Garden State over the next 3 to 6 months, gamblers might want to give a big “Thank You” to the Genovese crime family, with its operations based out of Northern New Jersey.
A bust of 13 men allegedly associated with the Mob organization were arrested Wednesday for running a multi-billion (that’s BILLION with a “B”) Internet sports betting business out of the state with a call center based in the Web wagering hub of San Jose, Costa Rica.
Within hours of the arrests, State Sen. Raymond Lesniak sent out a letter espousing the virtues of regulated online gambling as a means to keep the criminal element out of New Jersey. Lesniak is a co-sponsor of a measure that would bring legalized sports betting to the state in addition to making New Jersey the “Silicon Valley of Internet Gambling”.
One day later, NJ Governor Chris Christie declared in a speech that sports betting would be coming to his state by the start of the new NFL season, essentially defying a federal ban.
“It will be another exciting way to add to the experience here in Atlantic City, and I know this is something people have been waiting for for a long time,” Christie announced on the Atlantic City boardwalk. “We’ll be ready to go, I hope, this fall with a whole new phase of gaming.
“We intend to go forward and allow sports gambling to happen. If someone wants to stop us, then they’ll have to take action to try and stop us.”
An Election Day referendum last November resulted in approximately 65 percent of New Jersey residents voting in favor of legalized sports betting.
Casino executives in Atlantic City generally support the idea of legalized sports betting.
"I love the idea of playing offense and having the federal government have to play defense against us," said Tony Rodio, president of Tropicana Entertainment, which owns the Tropicana in Atlantic City, as well as casinos in several other states. "But I don't know who's going to want to be the first to open knowing they can shut you down. We'd need a lot more clarity before we invested lots of money in a sports book."
"Am I expecting there may be legal action taken against us to try to prevent it? Yes," the governor said. "But I have every confidence we're going to be successful."
Critics contended that Christie was possibly avoiding both sports betting and Internet gaming out of fear that he might upset key conservative GOP donors — including New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, considered to be a close friend of the Governor. Christie is also believed to be among those under consideration for the role of Republican Vice Presidential nominee to candidate Mitt Romney.
Lesniak is aiming to have his online poker legislation signed by early this summer. Christie’s move regarding sports betting in the state lends hope that the Governor could sign off on Lesniak’s bill, which has already been embraced by most members of the state legislative body. On Thursday, he would not comment regarding the poker bill, only saying that the measure had yet to reach his desk.
Unlike sports betting, the US Justice Department has changed its stance as it relates to poker, providing states the opportunity to regulate what is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
- Gilbert Horowitz, Gambling911.com