Lesniak Expects New Jersey’s Internet Poker Bill to Reach Finish Line



New Jersey’s Internet gambling bill is scheduled to go up for a vote in the New Jersey Senate on May 31, later than sponsor Raymond Lesniak had hoped. The delay will push back his predicted Sept. 1 start date for online poker in the Garden State. Lesniak still says he expects online poker to be up and running in New Jersey "sometime in the fall."

Lesniak said last month that the bill would pass through both houses in mid-April. The bill was passed by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on April 3. The holdup, according to Lesniak, is that many of his colleagues in the legislature are going on vacation over the next month.

"We have to make sure we have all the Democratic votes there, so we have to schedule around people’s vacations," Lesniak said. "Things like this happen. A year ago, the governor vetoed the first attempt. This time, it looks like we’re going to reach the finish line. It’s just taking longer than I hoped for."

Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill last year. This year’s version was amended to address Christie’s concerns that commercial establishments outside Atlantic City could become centers for online gambling.

Since Christie’s veto, there have been other developments with Nevada passing online poker regulations and the Justice Department’s opinion on the Wire Act, which says that the Wire Act, previously used to discourage all forms of online gambling, applies only to sports betting.

Christie indicated in January that he had come around on the idea allowing Atlantic City casinos to host online gambling websites. Lesniak foresees New Jersey being the East Coast epicenter of online poker with other states, and potentially other nations, utilizing New Jersey’s gambling experience to serve as the regulating body for a large cross-state pool of players once those states decide to get involved in online poker.

If the bill passes May 31 in the Senate, Lesniak expects it to be passed by the State Assembly in June and signed by the governor soon after. He remains optimistic that the bill is on track despite these speed bumps.

"I’m extremely confident," Lesniak said. "The casinos really need it. They want it. Really, it’s the only way some of them will survive."

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