Lesniak at MTGUSA: NJ Online Poker Needs International Compacts

At the Mobile & Tablet Gambling USA Summit, New Jersey Senator Lesniak released his plans to turn his state into an international hub for online gambling.

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.

Sorry, The Answer We Were Looking For Was “partypoker”

Who is your online poker partner again? We can’t really blame the guy as we’ve all seen the news lately, but partypoker probably wasn’t too happy.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils have a partnership with partypoker, but I’ll give you one guess at which poker site the CEO of the 76ers Scott O’Neil probably played on pre-Black Friday.

PokerStars owes this “bad actor” a thank you card.

PartTimePoker.com stated the video was originally for NBA.com but has been removed.

First Look at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open

For this year’s Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, PokerStars jumped on board to contribute to the exciting event. Read all the details on upcoming SHRPO events

This year, the East Coast’s most drooled over tournament series isn’t happening at the Borgata or in Foxwood’s grand poker room, but at a tribal casino just a few miles north of Miami, Florida. A casino that until fairly recently, few New Jerseyans had likely ever heard of.

But that all changed in one felt swoop last August when the Seminole Hard Rock unleashed a $10 million guarantee tournament that would not only meet its guarantee, but utterly obliterate it.

By the time the final buy-ins were tallied up, the prize pool for the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open’s (SHRPO) main event swelled to nearly $12 million. This, after preliminary events had already shattered Florida’s poker participation rates multiple times.

And to the surprise of absolutely no one, the SHRPO is back and bigger than ever. But this year’s story comes with a little twist; one that may have a profound impact on the Garden State’s iGaming biz.

The SHRPO at a glance

The 2014 iteration of the SHRPO will kick off on Monday, August 11th with a $350 buy-in, $500,000 guaranteed deep stack featuring six starting flights. And yes, you read that right – six starting flights.

During the three weeks that follow, the casino will host a $560 buy-in, $1 million guarantee, several more six-figure guarantees, a $100,000 Super High Roller, and of course the series flagship event – a $5,300 reentry, $10 million guarantee.

Last year, the WPT Alpha8 held its inaugural event at the Seminole Hard Rock, where Steven Silverman would down a rather small field of 18 en route to nearly $900,000 in winnings. But this year’s event (slated to kickoff on September 1st)  is part of the SHRPO main event schedule.

As for the Main, the festivities will begin on August 28th and run through September 3rd. During this time and throughout the series, the number of poker tables on the casino ground will be expanded from 41 to 130, courtesy of the Seminole’s ballrooms.

90 tournament tables, three starting flights, and little else in the way of overlapping tournaments – that means the Seminole is expecting upwards of 2,700 players to show up for this year’s Main, equating to a $13.5 million prize pool before a single reentry is taken into account. The word “wow” springs immediately to mind.

At the SHRPO’s conclusion one lucky grinder will receive the 2014 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Player of the Year award, and more than $30,000 in tournament entries, cash and amenities that come with it.

Read more on last year’s historic Main Event and grueling six-hour heads up battle between pros Justin Bonomo and Blair Hinkle here.

PokerStars partners with the Seminole Hard Rock

When the Seminole moved its series up as to not overlap the PokerStars sponsored European Poker Tour, I took it to mean nothing more than two mutual parties working together to maximize the turnouts of their respective tournaments.

But there was more to it than that.

Apparently, PokerStars is planning further into the future than I originally expected. Already, the online poker behemoth has set its sites on one state – California – that has yet to legalize online poker.

But with its entry into Florida, Stars is dabbling in a state that is still in the discussion phase – a state that did not include online poker in its recent gaming reform bill.

But I suppose the opportunity to partner up with the one East Coast casino that hosts a $10 million guarantee was too good for Stars to pass up, especially considering the state’s population of nearly 20 million and its obsession with card rooms.

As part of the partnership, PokerStars is offering players the chance to buy their way into the SHRPO Main Event using funds from their PokerStars account.

Apparently, a foothold in Florida is really important to PokerStars, if they’re willing to forgo millions in cash liquidity to make it happen.

So what does this mean for New Jersey? At the moment, not much. But down the line, it opens up the opportunity for the Garden State to forge an interstate compact with Florida.

With California likely going out on it’s own, New Jersey will desperately be in need of forming alliances if it hopes to garner a decent chunk of PokerStars attention.

It also reinforces PokerStars’ brand awareness in the United States, which could pay both long and short-term dividends in New Jersey.

And with PokerStars increased presence in the states, you can bet your last play-money dollar  that the gaming operators currently situated in the market are going to up their game (see Party’s GSSS as an example).

For now, it might be time for us New Jersey poker junkies to consider booking a plane ticket to Florida. Just make sure to be back for the Borgata Poker Open.