New Jersey to Lose Key I-Gaming Supporter
New Jersey has been offering legal online poker and casino games for nearly four years. When the industry launched in November 2013, it became the third state to offer online poker in America and the second to put casino games on the internet per state regulations. And New Jersey has since become a model for what the online gaming industry can be.
There were several legislators who spurred the movement to legalize online gaming in the state, but one of the most influential was State Senator Raymond Lesniak. He worked tirelessly for years to research the industry, propose bills that were feasible and amenable to the all interests involved, and convince other legislators that it was a good idea for the state.
As he now prepares to leave the state legislature, however, it is important that someone steps up to the plate to take his place as a spokesperson for and supporter of the online gaming industry in New Jersey. Of course, it’s already up and running, but it has the potential to grow if someone is willing to advocate for the industry’s partnerships and expansion.
Lesniak Working on Industry Fix
As one of the people who understands the online gaming industry quite well, Lesniak has been a proponent for making New Jersey a more integral part of the global scene. He sees places like Malta that have become internet gaming licensing hubs, and he wants that for his state. He firmly believes that Atlantic City has the potential to become a nucleus of sorts for the future of online gaming.
Lesniak has reason to be positive. The New Jersey online gaming business has grown significantly since its launch nearly four years ago, and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has done a respectable job of licensing operators and regulating the action. The DGE has also become somewhat of an expert organization with regard to geolocation and player identification technology, as there has yet to be one reported instance of underage gambling or any improprieties.
With that in mind, Lesniak is currently preparing legislation to remove a current part of the online gambling law that mandates any company offering services to New Jersey customers have an established server in Atlantic City. While his intention with that was to create a licensing hub, he has come to realize that it is too difficult a process for smaller operators and even for overseas companies. By removing that limitation, New Jersey would be in a better position to sign agreements with other markets to share online poker – and eventually casino jackpot – liquidity.
The bill is still being prepared and will likely be introduced to the state legislature when the session resumes in September. At that time, industry stakeholders will have a better idea of the details of Lesniak’s proposal.
Time is Limited
Lesniak has a few months left to push his latest bill through the legislature and garner support for the online gaming industry as it continues to grow. But his term will end later this year, at which time he will not be keeping his position in the New Jersey Senate.
One might assume that the 71-year-old legislator has had his fill of politics and will retire to the private sector. He has served in the state legislature since 1978, first for five years in the Assembly and now since 1983 in the Senate. He has come to play a significant role as a senior member of the legislature and a powerful voice for the Democrats in state politics.
However, Lesniak had even higher political aspirations. In 2016, when he made the decision to retire his Senate seat, he announced his intention to run for the governorship. He was going to challenge Phil Murphy in the primary in the hopes of winning the nomination and challenging current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the next election. But in June 2017, Lesniak lost the primary and has yet to announce his next political move.
While the long-term legislator contemplates his future influencing public policy in some way, Lesniak must also be prepared to hand over his leadership on a number of issues to others who will follow in his footsteps. With regard to online gambling, it is unclear who that person might be.
For the next several months, though, Lesniak is likely to be pushing his online gaming bill and other legislation as hard as possible to finalize his projects and cement his legacy.