As the February 24 deadline nears for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to decide what he is going to do with the Internet gambling legislation sitting on his desk, the Poker Players Alliance leadership has weighed in on the topic it has long watched from a distance.
"We're generally supportive of the bill," PPA executive director John Pappas said. "Honestly, I think it builds some nice momentum for us to see a state move forward, so we're hopeful the governor signs the bill."
The PPA's support is a quiet one. It never lobbied for the bill to pass through the legislature and it is not lobbying for the governor's signature. The legislation was passed by the New Jersey State Assembly on January 10, leaving 45 calendar days for the governor to take action.
If the bill to establish intrastate Internet gambling through Atlantic City casino hubs is signed by Gov. Christie or if the governor allows Februaury 24 to go by without vetoing the legislation, the bill will become law and the next step will be to craft the regulations.
This is where Pappas said the PPA will jump in to protect the rights of players.
"We'll be involved in the rule-making process," Pappas said. "There's nothing in the bill right now that appears to have a red flag for the rights of players."
Pappas said that even if the bill does become law, he is not sure that intrastate Internet poker is a guarantee for New Jersey. The bill also includes casino games like roulette, slot machines, craps and blackjack, which are relatively easy to set up because they involve playing against the house software rather than gathering players to go against each other.
"We're really going to have to see how the market develops and whether there's even going to be a market for poker in this New Jersey system," Pappas said. "Casinos may just find that liquidity issues are too much to overcome and may just offer casino games."
Joe Brennan Jr. of the Interactive Media and Gaming Entertainment Association, who has led the lobbying of the New Jersey bills since the beginning, always has promoted it as a system that would include Internet poker.
One of the biggest concerns many players have regarding the intrastate New Jersey system is how popular international poker sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker will respond to it, especially after the sites withdrew from the state of Washington last year. As currently written, the New Jersey bill doesn't criminalize Internet poker in any way.
"We're curious to see how operators react to the legislation should it go into effect," Pappas said. "The bill certainly doesn't make it a crime for individuals to play on other sites outside the state sites."
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