Expert Claims: New Jersey Internet Gambling Referendum Not Needed

According to a law academic, new online gambling bill will not impact the state constitution

Seton Hall University Law Professor John B. Wefing answered a key question that has been generating political debate in a New Jersey House of Assembly committee that there was no requirement for lawmakers to submit a new intrastate online gambling legalization measure to a referendum of residents.

In his testifying before the House Wagering and Tourism Committee, Wefing expressed his opinion that such a bill would not violate Atlantic City gaming monopoly in line with the state constitution’s provision, because any online bet would not be completed until a server in Atlantic City accepted the wager.

He also reminded lawmakers that state voters in 1976 approved a ballot question giving Atlantic City the unique status on gambling, aside from horse racing and the state lottery, and noted that the law memorializing the decision was “broad” in terms of what sort of gambling would be permitted.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli remarked that the committee would consider various opinions, one of them being Wefing’s, and then decide whether to present a bill not requiring a referendum in November. At the moment, the Assembly members are turning their attention to the state budget, so it would be several weeks before an online gambling bill comes up for a committee vote said Burzichelli.

It was last March when the Legislature passed an online poker bill but Governor Chris Christie vetoed it, citing constitutional objection. Nowadays, Christie is working with the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Ray Lesniak for instance, and has even asked for additional guidance on whether the bill is constitutional from the state Attorney General’s office.

Another assemblyman Ralph Caputo, a former Atlantic City casino executive, said he would prefer to see the question put to voters in November anyway, even if it is not mandatory.

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