New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak is planning to introduce legislation to turn the state into “the Mecca of internet gaming" according to an article distributed by the Associated Press on Aug. 2. It would allow players in the state to access worldwide gambling sites and would permit various jurisdictions to pool their poker player traffic together. The current wording of the bill is yet unknown, but Senator Lesniak told OnlinePokerReport that it will be presented to the State Senate on Aug. 25.
The plan is to waive the current requirement that all gaming servers for licensed online NJ sites be located in Atlantic City. Also, there's a restriction now in place that everyone who wishes to partake in the services of such sites be physically located within New Jersey's borders, and Lesniak would lift this provision. This doesn't mean that everyone anywhere in the world would be able to bet on NJ poker and casino sites because the intention is to allow participation only from those who are in areas that already allow real money gaming over the internet. This includes the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Czech Republic and many other places around the globe.
Unfortunately for Lesniak, there are plenty of challenges to surmount before his proposal has a chance of acceptance. The senator has announced his retirement from politics, so he won't be around to shepherd it through the complicated legislative process. He has been a strong proponent of online gambling over the past few years. Indeed, the senator was a co-sponsor of the A2578 bill to establish a legalized online poker licensing framework within the state, which passed in 2013. Having served in the Senate since 1983, Lesniak has amassed a wealth of political experience and contacts – resources that will no longer be able to help the internet gambling industry after he leaves office.
Furthermore, this year is an election year for the New Jersey State Senate, so we expect Lesniak's colleagues to be busy campaigning with little time to spare for his project. The timing of Senator Lesniak's move is inauspicious for another reason: According to New Jersey laws, a legislative session starts near the beginning of every even-numbered year and continues through the subsequent year, at which time all unfinished business ends. This means that if the international gaming bill is put forward later in August as planned, it will have just a few months to pass before being cleared from the calendar.
Even if Lesniak's legislation makes it through both chambers of the state legislature successfully and isn't vetoed, there are still plenty of ways for it to ultimately fail. Presumably, all foreign countries that wish to combine their online poker traffic with New Jersey would have to reach agreements with the authorities in the Garden State. Given the fact that NJ hasn't even been able to negotiate compacts with the two other regulated online gambling states, Delaware and Nevada, it's tough to envision how they'll be able to do so internationally.
There's also the fact that offshore companies may have little interest in expanding into the state because it's only home to about 9 million residents. There are 280 poker players online on average at the NJ legalized sites according to traffic tracking site GameIntel.com. If the entire state's existing regulated internet poker rooms were to be combined into one, it would be tied for 22nd place in the global player liquidity rankings. It's unlikely that many gambling firms would have enough interest to go through the NJ licensing procedures in order to compete for a slice of such a small pie.
Although its prospects of passage appear pretty slim right now, Lesniak's idea isn't without its merits. In the unlikely event that it does succeed, it will have the effect of making player-sharing easier with any states that establish online poker regulation systems in the future. If New Jersey is able to act as a gateway for large states like New York and Illinois that appear likely to enact enabling legislation in the next few years, then the size of the combined market may prove more attractive to outside poker operators. We could see a positive network effect as the U.S. internet poker ball gets rolling and picks up speed rapidly.
Even if Senator Lesniak's suggestion for multi-national poker cooperation comes to naught, you can still play cards online from New Jersey. Besides the rather disappointing state-regulated companies, there are several “gray market” organizations that would be happy to accept you as a customer. They're reputable card rooms that have been serving New Jerseyans and citizens of the rest of the United States for several years. You can learn more about them in our overview of legal New Jersey online poker sites.