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NJ State Senator Lesniak Hints at “Major Announcement”

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak certainly knows how to use Twitter effectively. In the early afternoon on Thursday, the long-time supporter of online poker caught the attention of poker fans with the hype filled tweet, “@PokerStars launch will spark an AC revival. Stay tuned for a major announcement…”

Of course, that got people interested in whatever he was going to say next. It is no secret that PokerStars will be entering the New Jersey online gambling market at some point now that it is owned by Amaya Gaming, but beyond that, what was Lesniak holding back? Three hours later, he built up the anticipation even more, responding to a question about whether or not New Jersey online poker rooms will ever accept players from Europe with simply, “Soon Stay tuned for that also.”

Finally, at about 4:30pm ET, Senator Lesniak let a little bit of the cat out of the bag, responding to a question from’s Chris Grove asking for how long we all should “stay tuned” about whatever exciting thing was in the works. To that Lesniak said, “not long, weeks not months.”

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak (c) @SenatorLesniak

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak
(c) @SenatorLesniak

So a “major announcement” is coming in “weeks not months.” What that announcement is all about is not exactly certain, but the prevailing sentiment, especially considering Lesniak already referenced the world’s largest online poker room, is that will be about an imminent launch of PokerStars in New Jersey. One date some people have pointed to is October 1st, but that is just speculation at this point. No matter what, Senator Lesniak has a knack drumming up interest and getting people to follow him on Twitter.

A short time later, Lesniak also said, “… Soon to be countries!” in reference to a comment about adding player bases from other states.

As mentioned, Ray Lesniak has been a huge supporter of online poker for quite some time. He was ahead of the curve three years ago, an artist ahead of his time, if you will, when he introduced a bill to legalize online poker in New Jersey. At the time, Governor Chris Christie, who when it comes to internet gambling has flip-flopped more than a waffle maker at a Country Inn & Suites, vetoed the bill, saying, “In my view,” he said, “the creation of a legal fiction deeming all wagers to have ‘originated’ in Atlantic City cannot overcome the clear and unambiguous language of the State Constitution.”

Even the Poker Players Alliance wasn’t fond of the bill because it wanted online poker legalized on the federal level out of concern that state-level legalization would fragment the United States poker market. The PPA was not at all incorrect, but obviously times have changed and poker supporters seem to have taken the stance, “We’ll take what we can get.”

Lesniak tried again in 2012 and made more headway with Christie, as by that point, the Department of Justice had issued its clarification of the Wire Act, saying that federal law only prohibited online sports betting. His bill passed through the Senate in April 2012 and a companion bill made it through the state Assembly in December. Governor Christie gave the end product a conditional veto in February 2013, meaning if the state legislature made a few changes that he wanted, he would give it his stamp of approval. That happened and online gambling eventually went live in New Jersey in November 2013.

Lesniak has also been pushing for New Jersey to open its online gambling borders to players from other states and even other countries, introducing a bill in January of this year that would do this. During most of the time New Jersey has had little interest in teaming up with the two other states – Delaware and Nevada – to combine player pools. Nevada and Delaware, have already signed an agreement with each other, and for good reason because of their small populations, though their poker players pools have not combined yet. New Jersey did join forces with Nevada for progressive jackpots, but nothing for poker. Online poker’s revenue numbers have been a bit underwhelming in the Garden State, but New Jersey could probably support the game on its own well enough, as its population of nearly 9 million residents ranks eleventh in the nation.

Just this week, though, Governor Christie said that he has had conversations with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval about the possibility of forming an interstate poker compact with the Silver State. Nothing is in what one might call the “serious” stage, but it does sound like the two men are interested in getting something going eventually.


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