On Tuesday, Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman Mark Lipparelli shed a bit more light on his state’s online poker plans at an ICE seminar in London. As live tweeted by James Barnes (@JamesBarnesEsq), Lipparelli said the GCB expects to grant its first online poker licenses in late spring/early summer 2012, and it was “optimistically plausible” the first online poker hands could be dealt within the calendar year. Technical standards for licensees are to be issued within a week.
Nevada may be currently out in front of the other states, but New Jersey is looking to make up ground in a hurry. On Monday, NJ sports and gaming writer John Brennan tweeted that NJ state Sen. Ray Lesniak “hopes to get revised online poker bill passed in Trenton by March 1; GovChristie would sign.” Lesniak successfully engineered passage of such a bill by both NJ’s legislative bodies last year, only to see Gov. Chris Christie veto it. Christie has been cagey as to whether he’d sign a new bill, even one that addressed the concerns that prompted his earlier veto.
Christie has already signed the state’s sports betting law, which now needs only a successful court challenge of the federal PASPA prohibitions to make NJ sports betting a reality. On Monday, two NJ congressmen (each named Frank) launched pre-emptive attacks on PASPA, introducing competing legislation into the House of Representatives that would render that court fight a foregone conclusion. Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. introduced a bill that would add New Jersey’s name to the list of states PASPA permits to engage in sports betting. According to Pallone: “The citizens of New Jersey have made it clear they want the opportunity to share in the profits from professional sports betting … It isn’t appropriate for the federal government to be standing in the way.”
Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, on the other hand, introduced far more ambitious legislation. LoBiondo’s Sports Gaming Opportunity Act seeks to insert a giant wedge into PASPA, allowing all states in the union to opt in to sports betting by passing legislation similar to New Jersey’s before Jan. 1, 2016. A LoBiondo spokesman told NorthJersey.com that the congressman had decided this was the best course of action following “consultation with casino representatives and House legislative counsel.”
Some of those casino representatives expressed their support of New Jersey’s actions to Casino City Times’ Chris Sieroty. Brandywine Bookmaking CEO Joe Asher said it was “time we had an adult conversation about sports betting beyond Nevada and Delaware … to pretend it’s not happening is not reality.” American Wagering Inc. senior VP John English said Christie’s desire to open up PASPA would lead to “a tough fight with the federal government … but he is gaining great state-level support.”
While each New Jersey congressman was careful not to disparage the other’s legislation, Pallone’s view is that the more narrow scope of his own bill stood “a better shot at passing” in a congress bitterly split along partisan lines. LoBiondo acknowledged that “consensus and majority support” were critical, but suggested “it would be nearly impossible to pass federal legislation if it is perceived as New Jersey versus the 45 other states.” In the end, Pallone believes all roads lead to Rome. “Whatever works.”
Gov. Christie’s reaction was equally diplomatic. “Whatever allows us to be able to institute sports gambling in New Jersey in a way that’s legal, I’m in favor of. Whichever way that happens is fine by me.” Lesniak also welcomed any and all allies in his longstanding fight against PASPA, but struck a more defiant tone in suggesting the sports betting handwriting was on the wall. “Whether we’re successful in the halls of Congress or on the floor of the U.S. Supreme Court, sports wagering will be coming to New Jersey, one way or another.”