Where The 2016 Presidential Field Stands on Gambling: Chris Christie

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America’s next president will likely face no shortage of critical gambling-related policy decisions, including:

  • What is the role of the federal government in the expanding world of Internet gaming?
  • How will expanded regional commercial gaming and Internet gaming impact tribal gaming and how should their administration respond?
  • Should the DOJ 2011 Wire Act opinion stand?

This multi-part series explores where the current frontrunners for the job stand on gaming-related issues.

We’ll break down one candidate every week, taking our order from Paddy Power’s 2016 Presidential Election odds maker.

Last week, we started with Hillary Clinton, who’s leading the field at 5/4.

Next up, at 10/1 …

Chris Christie’s political history with gaming

“If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us. We want to work with the casinos and horse racing industry to get [sports betting] implemented.” – Chris Christie, May 2012.

Online gaming

As governor, Christie signed legislation making New Jersey the third state to authorize Internet gaming. Under Christie’s watch, New Jersey launched full-blown Internet gaming (poker and casino) operated by Atlantic City’s land-based casinos.

His administration projected $1 billion in revenue from Internet gaming by July 2014. Others considered this estimation overly aggressive – for example, Fitch Ratings estimated the revenue at $300 million for all of 2014.

Obviously , the Governor’s guess was a little inflated as Internet gaming revenue is currently on pace to do between $120mm and $150mm for year 1.

Land-based gaming

New Jersey has also been in the news on the issue of sports betting.  Just last week, the Governor signed a bill repealing the state’s sports betting prohibition with respect to casinos and racetracks – the latest in a long legal battle to bring sports betting to New Jersey.

This past Friday, the District Court issued a restraining order preventing racetracks and casinos from offering sports betting.  The issue will likely end up back before the Third Circuit.

In 2011, Christie also was instrumental in restructuring regulatory oversight of Atlantic City, signing two measures into law to modernize the casino regulatory structure:

  • The first measure formed a tourism district within Atlantic City to establish land use regulations, implement a tourism district master plan and advance commercial development.
  • The second was meant to streamline New Jersey’s regulatory process by shifting a majority of regulatory responsibility to “move away from the duplicative and overlapping investigative, oversight, and regulatory functions.”

Christie also looked to jump-start the stalled Revel Casino construction in Atlantic City by granting Revel $261 million in tax incentives through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in February of 2011. Revel, the first new construction casino in Atlantic City since the Borgata in 2003, opened in April of 2012 and subsequently filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and 2014, shutting its doors in September of 2014.

Atlantic City has also seen a shrinking in the market well beyond Revel – 2014 also witnessed the closure of the Atlantic Club, Showboat and Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.

While authorizing Internet gaming and pushing regulatory reform in Atlantic City, Christie has also expressed an interest in expanding gambling beyond Atlantic City.

Christie has publicly stated, “[2014 is] obviously a critical year because we need to begin to see progress in Atlantic City or we’re going to start considering alternatives,” with such alternatives including allowing casinos at the Meadowlands sports complex in northern New Jersey and possibly elsewhere in the state.

Predictions for federal gambling policy under a Christie administration

  1. Of the top Republican presidential candidates, Christie is the most likely to promote a federal policy expanding Internet gaming – although such an federal expansion is highly unlikely under any Republican president.
  2. Christie would likely take a state’s rights position on Internet gaming, presumably supporting Internet gaming interstate (and possibly international) compacts.
  3. Christie would likely preserve the status quo with respect to the DOJ’s 2011 Wire Act opinion.

Image credit: L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock.com

- Eric D. Frank, associate of the law firm Duane Morris LLP, concentrates his practice in the areas of gaming and regulatory matters for both land-based and Internet gaming clients. Duane Morris has both a national and international presence in the gaming industry. Frank's gaming practice expands beyond commercial casino gaming and includes representative matters in Indian gaming and the lottery and horse racing industries. Frank is a regular author on Duane Morris’ unique Gaming Law Blog.
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