NJ Senator Lesniak: PokerStars Coming in March 2015

Written By Steve Ruddock on January 13, 2015 - Last Updated on May 16, 2015

PokerStars may be arriving on the shores of New Jersey by the end of Q1 2015 according to New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak.

After seeing the Senator responding to New Jersey’s sports betting case on Twitter on Friday evening Chris Grove took a shot and asked the Senator how PokerStars license application was progressing. Lesniak, a known social media bomb thrower and knowledge dropper, didn’t disappoint with his responses.

Senator Lesniak, the architect and champion of iGaming expansion in the state, quickly responded with just two words, “March 2015.”

When asked why the site’s license application continues to be held up Lesniak responded with, “More due diligence window dressing,” adding that the earlier reasons for the delay seem to be in the rearview mirror, “Adelson’s play to ban eGaming in Congress is dead and Poker Stars new ownership too formidable to deny.”

Lesniak has a history of missed predictions

How much stock you should put into Lesniak’s prediction is up to you.

Senator Lesniak is certainly better connected than just about anyone not working for the Division of Gaming Enforcement, and he has spearheaded just about every significant gaming expansion effort in New Jersey in recent years.But, as noted above, Lesniak often speaks his mind, so unlike many of his colleagues, he can often stick his neck out a bit too far with bold predictions.

Lesniak has a knack for hyperbole on Twitter, considering he has implied PokerStars would be approved several times already, yet the company has been petitioning for a New Jersey online gambling license since the fall of 2013, and is still patiently waiting on the sidelines.

And let’s not forget this is also the man who told us to meet him down at Monmouth racetrack to place bets on the New York Giants and other NFL games on multiple occasions – Unless he meant in the parking lot with a mobbed up bookie I’m afraid he was wrong on that count as well.

Frankly, I wouldn’t consider March 2015 to be a very hard deadline, but it seems like a very reasonable timeline when you consider PokerStars licensing delays seem manufactured and political in nature, rather than an issue with the company’s overall suitability.

PokerStars New Jersey Trials and Tribulations

From the very moment it declared its intention to apply for a New Jersey online gaming license, PokerStars has been on a wild and wooly ride in New Jersey that has led to what can best be described as a series of misadventures.

PokerStars first point of entry was a potential purchase of the floundering Atlantic Club Casino. In the end, the sale fell through after Atlantic Club backed out of the agreement despite PokerStars making multi-million dollar payments to the company – which Atlantic Club decided were theirs to keep. When the smoke cleared (following a court date) PokerStars was cast out into the street with their wallet lightened by some $10 million.

Following their dysfunctional and later annulled marriage with Atlantic Club, PokerStars partnered with Resorts Casino and seemed to be on its way to a license in the lead-up to the soft launch period in November of 2013. However, when the list of approved sites was announced, PokerStars was not on the list.

This disappointment was followed by even more bad news. In December the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement announced that it would be suspending PokerStars license application for a period of up two years, citing concerns over the continued involvement of PokerStars cofounder Isai Scheinberg and several other unnamed individuals.

With their New Jersey prospects becoming bleak, coupled with a vigorous effort in California to keep the company out of that market, PokerStars was sold to Amaya Gaming, a process that began in June and was officially completed in August. The sale seemed to resolve all of the DGE’s earlier concerns, considering the regulatory body reopened PokerStars application soon after the sale was officially announced.

Most people expected PokerStars to be approved by October of 2014, and certainly by the end of the year. Instead, we watched as PokerStars continued to be excluded. Concerns mounted as 2014 ran out of days on the calendar, and fingers began pointing in different directions.

One of those fingers was Senator Lesniak. With Sheldon Adelson’s crusade to stop Internet gambling gaining momentum towards the end of 2014 many people, including Senator Lesniak, blamed the delay on Chris Christie, and his perceived desire to curry favor with the mega-donor who many see as the man who will coronate the Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

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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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