Lesniak at MTGUSA: NJ Online Poker Needs International Compacts

During his keynote address at the recently concluded Mobile & Tablet Gambling USA Summit (MTGUSA) that was held at Bally’s Atlantic City, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, and gambling champion, made a very bold declaration as he outlined his three-pronged plan that would allow New Jersey to become the Silicon Valley of iGaming.

Dutifully recorded by NJPO’s own Robert DellaFave (who was in attendance and moderated a panel during the Summit) Lesniak said that his plan required not only PokerStars to become a participant in the New Jersey online poker market, but New Jersey needed to link up their player base with PokerStars’ .com player base.

This is the very definition of a bold statement.

Considering interstate poker in the U.S. has yet to launch, and Lesniak didn’t provide any details on how this linkage would occur, this seems like little more than some red meat from a man who is not averse to making bold statements, particularly when it comes to gaming. “See you at Monmouth Park this weekend!”


Linking up with a site’s .com player base is no longer the simple matter it would have been back in 2007 – not that it would have been all that simple back then either.

Online gaming markets are becoming fractured around the globe, and each locale is requiring online poker operators to become licensed and pay taxes in their jurisdiction – in many cases requiring the company locate their servers inside their borders as well.

The “global” market Lesniak wants to link up with is splintering and is now several separate, smaller markets.

In fact, in the near future the “global” online poker market may no longer exist. It will be PokerStars France, PokerStars Italy, PokerStars UK, PokerStars Canada, PokerStars Australia, PokerStars Poland, and so on.

Yes, right now PokerStars’ global .com site is robust, but in the coming years more and more player bases will be shaved off into separate markets as the industry continues to undergo what CalvinAyre.com has been saying will happen for several years, the Balkanization of online gaming.

Creating an international compact will soon require linking up with individual countries one-by-one; not simply a company’s “global” player base.


Another factor that could hold back or possibly prevent international online poker are the myriad of different regulatory bodies that would have to somehow get on the same page. From tax ramifications, to server locations, to regulatory oversight, there are seemingly too many factors at play to make multinational online poker compacts a reality – at least in the way Lesniak is proposing.

Furthermore, Lesniak wants New Jersey to be the epicenter of this international online gaming empire, and it’s unlikely that countries with populations up to 10x as large are going to acquiesce to New Jersey’s demands – especially if they have their own regulatory bodies already overseeing their legal online gaming industries.

There are a lot of moving pieces that need to be fit into place for a single international compact become a reality, let alone multiple compacts that would bring together several countries.

EU Countries have been unable to get on the same page

Another reason I see international online poker compacts as an unlikely proposition between New Jersey and European countries is that the current crop of EU countries with legal online gambling (many of them neighbors) have been unable to come to terms on online poker compacts themselves.

If Spain and Portugal, or France and Italy cannot come to an agreement, how can New Jersey expect to do so when they bring an entirely different constitution and laws into play?

The EU constitution should make these types of arrangements simpler, yet they have never gotten past the talking stages. I don’t see how New Jersey would make this process easier, only more complicated.

U.S. iGaming industry is still on rocky ground

I’d also posit that EU countries will want the U.S. online gambling laws and industry to show a little more stability. Talk of a potential online gambling ban in Congress, and zero legislation at the federal level will likely keep other countries at bay for the foreseeable future.

So you’re saying there’s a chance…

The best option would be for New Jersey to first team up with other states, and then to look into partnering with a single overseas country. Instead of trying to go international by partnering with a country where online poker has been legalized, or more confusingly, trying to add a swath of currently unregulated markets into the mix.

Lesniak is not one to give up a fight (see New Jersey sportsbetting) and he’s been pushing to make New Jersey an international hub since online gaming was legalized in the state. So even though I think this is quite a long shot, it’s hard to write off Lesniak when it comes to anything to do with gambling.

About the Author

Steve Ruddock

Steve is a seasoned veteran of the online gambling industry, having written about it from every possible angle in his many years as a freelance gaming writer. Based in Massachusetts, Steve especially focuses on regulatory and legislative news coverage pertaining to the U.S. market.