New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie announced he would sign an amended version of New Jersey’s e-gaming bill as early as February 26, 2013. Suddenly, a viable competitor to Las Vegas’ legalized online poker is about to emerge. If the bill is signed into law next week, it will begin the next chapter of internet gambling’s tumultuous history in the United States.

Wait, Christie is a Republican? I thought Republicans didn’t want ANY sort of internet gambling legalized in the United States. Well, that’s partially correct: Arizona Senator John Kyl is famous for his vendetta against online gambling, authoring many bills since the late 1990s. Kyl’s vocal opposition to internet gambling also found favor with other Republicans and a few conservative Democrats. Beyond the 2006 UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) there hasn’t been any substantive legislation precluding the development of a domestic online gambling industry. Kyl is set to retire, and once he departs, maybe some of the hot air will leave the senate :) .

Christie turned down bills from New Jersey legislators previously for line item reasons. He wants online gambling taxed at 15% opposed to the proposed 10%; all internet gambling operations in New Jersey will be on a 10 year trial period, after which lawmakers can assess the costs/benefits of their activities; full transparency and clear standards for reporting online gambling activities in the state.

New Jersey’s goal is to ultimately accept bets nationwide, not just from within its own borders. It could be a potential boon for the sagging Atlantic City casino industry that has felt the brunt of the economic downturn. If he signs the bill into law, he will no doubt have to butt heads with the Federal government, since taking bets across state lines electronically is a technical violation of the Wire Act.

True to his frank and combative nature, Christie has promised to take the government to court if necessary, since the benefits of legalized online gambling are potentially immense for his constituents.

When the law does go into effect, it would be the largest expansion of legalized gambling in the state since the 1978 legislation which opened Atlantic City. Christie might be bull headed, but he isn’t stupid: signing this law would be money in the bank for his seriously cash-strapped state.