Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval recently reiterated that he was willing to sign an interstate compact with New Jersey for online poker. However, it’s not at all clear that the Garden State has any interest in such an arrangement at present.
What Sandoval said about NJ online poker
Sandoval’s comments came at a meeting of the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, right after a presentation by Michael Cohen, counsel for Caesars Acquisition Company. He was speaking about online gambling, and Sandoval immediately brought up the subject of sharing liquidity for online poker across state borders.
“With regard to these interstate agreements, I would like nothing better than to have an agreement with New Jersey, and it seems like there’s been a reluctance on the behalf of New Jersey to do that,” Sandoval stated.
“I signed the agreement with Gov. Markell from Delaware and it’s worked out really well. But as you say, liquidity is the name of the game. I’ve always said that putting New Jersey and Nevada together is like putting the Yankees and the Dodgers on the same team, and it would really be a great opportunity.”
Sandoval asked Cohen why New Jersey had not yet engaged Nevada on such an agreement. And while Cohen may be aware of some of the politics in play, he said publicly he wasn’t sure of why NJ had shied away from an interstate compact.
You can see the brief discussion on the matter here, starting at about the 2:44 mark.
Sandoval said he would be happy to sit down with Governor Chris Christie on the issue. “I do believe it’s a win-win for both states,” Sandoval said.
A.G. Burnett, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, also said it was logistically possible for the two states to sign a compact, during the meeting.
So why not New Jersey + Nevada for iPoker?
The answer to that question is multi-faceted, and is likely more to do with political concerns than any sort of logistics.
The current sites, not that interested?
Language in the Nevada online gaming law precludes PokerStars from being licensed in Nevada. The other network — consisting of Party Poker / Borgata — doesn’t have a Nevada presence either.
So, three of the five online poker rooms might not want to see an interstate compact, at present. PokerStars, the newest licensee, has no reason to advocate for an expanded market for its competitors.
Of course, perhaps Party Poker would be more excited about a Nevada license if liquidity were shared between the two states. (There are also questions about Party Poker’s viability for continuing to have a license in New Jersey, after its takeover by GVC.)
But right now, the intrastate interests in New Jersey to do not lead to an easy win for an interstate deal.
The Adelson-Christie connection
The bogeyman when it comes to online gambling is always Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, who is none too happy about his home state having legal iGaming.
Gov. Chris Christie is a well-established ally of Adelson’s, and as such is in no hurry to create what amounts to an expansion of online gambling for both states.
While it’s never been publicly known if Christie is the stumbling block in New Jersey, it’s a pretty good guess.
What’s next for a possible interstate gaming compact?
As long as Christie is governor, and as long as the New Jersey online poker market experiences the status quo, don’t hold your breath waiting for New Jersey and Nevada to share player pools.
But, when one or both of those dynamics change, a compact could be possible. Christie is out of office in NJ after this year. But the problem of current operators not needing or wanting a Nevada compact could still be in play.
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