New Jersey’s iGaming champion is looking to take the next step in his political career. NJ.com announced recently that state Senator Ray Lesniak will not seek reelection for the Senate and instead will run for Governor in 2017.

Lesniak confirmed these plans to NJ.com, stating:

“I’m not running for reelection. I plan on running for governor. It has been a long time in the making, about a year. I just saw the problems of this state are not being addressed and I believe that I’m the best person that we can get in there and say what needs to get done and get it done.”

Lesniak to focus on criminal justice reform and education

The Democratic Senator states that he plans to focus on criminal justice reform and education spending as part of his platform. He stated, “There are issues we are running away from that we can’t run away from.”

Among those issues is tax reform. He presently supports a millionaires’ tax as well as raising the state’s gas tax, both moves he views as important steps to raising tax revenue for the state as well as dollars for education.

Online poker players know Lesniak as the champion of the legalized online gambling in New Jersey. Lesniak was the sponsor for multiple pieces of legislation to legalize New Jersey online casinos. He was finally able to push through SB 1565 in 2013 and the legalized iGaming market went online in November 2013.

Since that time, New Jersey has become the top states in the U.S. for legalized iGaming. Presently, the market is enjoying solid upswing in iGaming revenues thanks to gains of 30% year-over-year for online table gaming.

Will continue championing NJ online gambling as governor

Lesniak recently told PokerNews.com in a phone interview that he plans to continue championing online gambling once he becomes governor. He first plans to block attempts by Sheldon Adelson to have iGaming banned at the federal level.

Next, he plans to be aggressive in reaching out to other states to go online or to join New Jersey in a shared online poker or iGaming network. Lesniak told PokerNews, “I would be a champion for expanding New Jersey online gambling internationally and would fight any further efforts to curtail it.”

“Being governor would certainly improve the weight of my positions on Internet gambling and sports betting. The reason I am seriously considering running for governor is that this state needs more effective leadership in all areas. Bringing in additional revenues is a big part of that, and I’ve made clear my belief that there’s money going outside the state for illegal offshore gambling that I want to bring back in the state.”

Too early to determine his chances for election

As we’re still two years away from the 2017 elections in New Jersey, it is too early to determine Lesniak’s chances to ascend to the Governor’s mansion. He will have the support of iGaming proponents and the gambling industry but will that be enough to put him over the top in a race for Governor?

The present Governor, Chris Christie, will not be able to seek reelection due to term limits but he is also planning on running for President in 2016. This means that a new set of candidates will arise over the next year to make their play for the office. Lesniak is the only candidate that has announced his intentions to run for Governor.

Image by Kforce / CC BY 3.0