SBR analyst Natalie Rydström interviews New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak on a pending online gambling bill expected to become state law. Senator Lesniak discusses the bill and his plan for New Jersey to become the first state in US history to launch intrastate online gambling.
"We will become the silicon valley of online gaming."
Natalie Rydström: Hi I'm Natalie Rydström with SportsBookReview. New Jersey is currently on the precipice of becoming the very first state in the United States to offer regulated intrastate online gambling, with a bill introduced by State Senator Raymond Lesniak that is expected to pass both houses and be signed by Governor Chris Christie by the middle of March. If that happens, it would be an unprecedented turning point in the online gaming environment in the US, and we are happy to have Senator Lesniak joining us via phone right now to discuss with us what exactly is about to happen in New Jersey. Senator, thanks for talking with us today!
State Senator Raymond Lesniak: My pleasure and what’s about to happen in New Jersey is that our state is about to become the Silicon Valley of online gaming. We expect to be the hub for online gaming not only for our residents, but by executing compacts with other states who don’t have the capability, software or infrastructure necessary, nor the regulatory experience to conduct these games; they’ll be able to profit and we’ll be able to profit as well by being the focal point for online gamling in the (United) States, and hopefully at some point internationally as well.
Natalie Rydström: So why is this all coming together now?
State Senator Raymond Lesniak: Last year I sponsored legislation that we put on the governor’s desk, but Governor Christie vetoed it for various different reasons. The impetus for the change of heart of Governor Christy was Attorney General Holder’s opinion that we can have intrastate online gaming without violating federal law. We were keyed up and ready to go. It is going through both houses in short order. March 15th is D-day that it will pass both houses. The Governor has said he will sign it.
Natalie Rydström: And what do you see the benefits being for the people of New Jersey?
State Senator Raymond Lesniak: Well we have some economic analysis that demonstrates revenue going to our casinos will be a couple hundred million dollars. That’s particularly significant at this time because Atlantic City’s casinos have been suffering over the past couple years, not only because of the economic, worldwide recession but because of competition from surrounding states — New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware — which have caught on to the benefits of casino gambling for their residents, not only for the state, but also for the fact that their residents want to play games and go to casinos. We’ve been suffering because of that. Online gaming will boost their revenues and there are significant jobs attached to that as well, high-paying jobs because of the software and technical requirements to get something like this operational.
Natalie Rydström: So what barriers were removed that now allows New Jersey to have this?
State Senator Raymond Lesniak: Well there have been a few. The Attorney General’s opinion that it doesn’t violate federal law was the most significant. There were other changes that I made from previous legislation. We wanted to help our horse racing industry with some of the revenue as well. The Governor objected to that so I took that out. The Governor thought that we may have to amend our constitution as we did to allow sports betting last year; that was overwhelmingly approved by the voters. We’ve concerned him that’s not a requirement. Most importantly, other states are moving—Nevada, California— and want to get in on the action too. We want to be the first and we’ll benefit the most.
Natalie Rydström: Well speaking of sports betting, what would you say IS the future of sports betting in New Jersey, if there is one?
State Senator Raymond Lesniak: As a matter of fact I’m on my way now not to visit our Attorney General to find out when he’s going to start his lawsuit. The voters approved the ballot initiative overwhelmingly to allow sports betting. Now we have to go to court to declare the federal ban unconstitutional. We’re very confident that we’re going to win this case and that the federal government is going to get out of our way and allow New Jersey residents to legally do what can be done in the state of Nevada legally.
Natalie Rydström: So you think there might actually be legal online sports betting in New Jersey at some point in the near future?
State Senator Raymond Lesniak: Well I wouldn’t say near future. We’re going to have online gaming, poker and other casino games. With sports betting there are a couple of hurdles we have to overcome, the biggest one being perhaps the federal ban. We’ll be in court shortly. We’re confident that we’re going to get that case overturned. That will take probably a year. I was hoping that there would be betting on 2013’s Super Bowl. That’s going to be a tight time-frame but we’re still hoping that next year our residents can bet on the Giants to win the Super Bowl again.
Natalie Rydström: Wow. Legally betting on American football in New Jersey in 2013, that would be something. Thanks so much for your time Senator Lesniak.