State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-District 20) has long been a champion of online gaming in his home state of New Jersey, and while he’s also been a long foe of current Republican Governor Chris Christie, the politician with 37 years of experience in Trenton says he’s interested in taking the chief position in the Garden State should he gain the necessary support.
“I need thousands of people behind me,” Lesniak recently told NJTV News. “New Jersey needs a fighter. Governor Christie fights for himself. I’m going to fight for the state.”
This week the senator expanded on his potential run saying, “This state has very, very serious problems… The state certainly needs to get things done, and that’s why I’m looking at running for governor.”
New Jersey’s Poker Star
Online gambling in New Jersey was only accomplished through Lesniak’s persistence of legalizing the revenue-generating market, three times sending an approved bill to Christie’s desk, who after two vetoes finally proved “third time’s the charm” by caving in and signing iGaming into law.
He’s been highly critical of the governor, the man who he believes is responsible for blocking PokerStars from entering the Garden State.
Though the governor has maintained that licensing is fully in the hands of the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), Lesniak has routinely questioned that validity.
After teasing that the world’s largest poker network would come to New Jersey in “weeks, not months” way back in September, Lesniak tweeted that the delay was due to the DGE’s inability to get Christie’s “OK” on the license issuance. Why wouldn’t Christie want to expand iPoker and reap the revenue benefits? According to Lesniak: Sheldon Adelson.
As Christie runs for the 2016 White House, GOP billionaire mega-donor Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands CEO that is anti-online gambling and spent $92.8 million on the 2012 election cycle, has major political clout as candidates scramble to grab a position of good standing in his eyes.
In February, Lesniak told PokerNews that “this is just another in a series of Governor Christie’s actions that turn his back on the people of the state of New Jersey to boost his presidential campaign.”
New, New Jersey
Should Lesniak be successful in gaining support and ultimately winning the governorship, New Jersey would likely look rather different than it does today.
A social and civil rights liberal, Lesniak’s primary focus is the economy, chairing the Economic Growth Committee and vice-chairing the Commerce Committee in the state Senate.
And in Lesniak’s opinion, a no-brainer for growing the economy and achieving higher state revenues is tapping into the iGaming market that has been largely underutilized.
He says he’ll urge other jurisdictions to follow New Jersey’s lead and join into interstate compacts to enhance the online gambling experience and also continue his quest to legalize sports betting. “The reason I am seriously considering running for governor is that this state needs more effective leadership in all areas,” Lesniak stated. “Bringing in additional revenues is a big part of that.”
“I would be a champion for expanding New Jersey online gambling internationally and would fight any further efforts to curtail it.”