Senator Lesniak: PokerStars Will Bring Growth To The New Jersey Online Gambling Market

Written By Steve Ruddock on August 19, 2015 - Last Updated on August 18, 2015

In a recent interview with’s Brian Pempus, New Jersey State Senator and likely 2016 gubernatorial candidate Raymond Lesniak was asked several questions about online gambling.

The most interesting topics were the continued delays in the issuance of PokerStars’ iGaming license by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and what the arrival of the online poker behemoth would mean for New Jersey.

Here are some of the interview highlights.

PokerStars license timeline

When asked for a timetable, Lesniak was loath to make another prediction (having been wrong several times in the past when he gave a firm date), but did say he continues to hear, “It will very likely happen in short order.”

This time Lesniak isn’t out on the island with his prediction, as Amaya CEO David Baazov has said on multiple occasions the company expects to be licensed in New Jersey sometime in Q3 of 2015, which runs through September 3o.

The willingness of Amaya to comment should be seen as a strong indication that it really is going to happen this time, considering prior to laying out the Q3 timeline during an earnings call in March of this year, the company had avoided answering questions on the state of its New Jersey license application.

Impact on New Jersey online gambling

Another area where Lesniak is optimistic is PokerStars’ impact.

PokerStars is expected to buoy the struggling online poker market in New Jersey (iCasino revenue continues to grow and accounts for about 80 percent of monthly online gaming revenue in New Jersey), but PokerStars’ arrival could have a broader impact on gaming in Atlantic City and New Jersey as well.

Lesniak indicated that PokerStars’ approval would lead to growth for the New Jersey online gambling market, and potentially bring about Lesniak’s end game goal of turning New Jersey into a worldwide iGaming hub.

Lesniak called licensing PokerStars (Amaya) the most critical step in turning New Jersey into an iGaming mecca:

“They have a great brand and would create a great footprint in New Jersey. I am told they would invest in Atlantic City, so I would continue to aggressively pursue laying out the welcome mat for e-gaming operators to have their base of operations in New Jersey.”

Christie’s role in the delay

Lesniak, who spearheaded the charge to introduce legal online casinos in New Jersey, has been vocal in pointing the finger at current governor Chris Christie as the reason PokerStars has failed to procure a license in New Jersey up to this point.

In his interview with, Lesniak toned down this rhetoric, indicating that Christie wasn’t so much personally delaying PokerStars’ license application as he was calling on the DGE to perform extreme due diligence with the company.

When asked by Pempus if Christie’s standing in the presidential race would have any impact on PokerStars’ license Lesniak said, “No, I don’t think so.”

He then added, “I just think that every single rock has been overturned and looked at, and scoped thoroughly, and there is really nothing more to do than to make a decision.”

This seems to indicate that the DGE wasn’t doing the Governor a favor by not approving PokerStars, as Lesniak had implied in the past, but rather leaving no stone unturned in its vetting of the polarizing online poker company.

Previously Lesniak had intimated that Christie was doing the bidding of Sheldon Adelson, buying the anti-online gambling crusader and big-time Republican donor some time to push a federal online gambling ban.

Christie has vehemently denied involvement in PokerStars’ licensing process. A Christie spokesman, Kevin Roberts, told Business Insider, “It’s a totally nonsensical argument, as Governor Christie signed the law to legalize online gaming in New Jersey. The DGE licensing review is an independent, technical process, the length of which varies case by case.”

For more context on the PokerStars licensing saga, I recommend the following article written by Chris Grove for

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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