Pro-Gambling Lawmaker Lesniak To Run For NJ Governor

[toc]State Sen. Ray Lesniak — a proponent of recent and proposed gambling expansions in the state — says he will run for governor of New Jersey.

Lesniak has been on the front lines as the state legalized online poker and casino games. He has also been an advocate for the legalization of NJ sports betting throughout the state’s legal battle with the pro sports leagues.

Lesniak, on again off for governor

Lesniak had indicated his desire to run for governor as long ago as 2015. But the Democratic state senator from Union had waffled on his bid for the top office in the state being vacated by Chris Christie.

Today, however, he said he his officially throwing his hat in the ring, filing the appropriate paperwork to run. From

“The final decision for me was I could not hold myself back,” Lesniak (D-Union) said by phone Thursday afternoon.


“The state of New Jersey needs fundamental reform and restructuring,” he said. “The state needs a fighter and I’m a fighter.”

Lesniak governorship would be a good thing for NJ gambling

Any governor of New Jersey will have to deal with gambling issues, because of the presence of Atlantic City casinos and the ongoing financial troubles of the resort town.

Lesniak has proven to be a lawmaker extremely involved and interested in securing New Jersey’s gambling industry. AC has been affected as casinos in nearby states have hurt revenue coming through AC.

In the past, Lesniak has wanted New Jersey to share liquidity with other states that have online poker now (Nevada and Delaware) and moving forward (possibly Pennsylvania). That’s something he could instantly put into effect as governor, and something Christie has been loathe to do.

Lesniak has been the voice of New Jersey’s legislature in passing laws that attempted to legalize sports betting in the state. The most recent effort is tied up in the courts and is being appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Given his outspoken stances in the past, he would likely continue to champion sports betting as governor.

Finally, he has been a proponent of an expansion of casinos to North Jersey. That effort was shot down by voters in a November referendum.

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Lesniak’s chances of winning

Lesniak, despite his age of 70, has been a tireless politician in the state. But he’s definitely considered an underdog to get his party’s nomination, as of right now.

Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are the odds-on favorites to come out of the primaries. Lesniak admitted as much in talking with Politico:

“I think it’s an uphill battle for me because Phil Murphy has the support of many of the leaders of Monmouth County, but I believe it’s important to make my case on the issues that I’ve championed and that I’ll continue to champion if I get their support,” he said.

However, there is a lot of time between now and the primary in June for Lesniak to make his case to the voting public.

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About the Author

Dustin Gouker

Aside from his role as editor at, Dustin Gouker writes extensively about the legal online gaming and US online poker industries, having played poker recreationally for his entire adult life. He has also covered sports for The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner, among others.