What’s Driving Recent Anti-PokerStars Op-Eds in New Jersey?

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Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) is one of online gambling’s staunchest opponents in the New Jersey legislature.

And he has once again proven this with a blistering op-ed in the Star-Ledger titled: N.J. Should Put a Magnifying Glass on PokerStars.

Anti-PokerStars rhetoric picking up a bit of steam in NJ

Caputo’s new op-ed echoes many of his previous statements (which I’ll get to below).

The op-ed also draws heavily on an op-ed from last month penned by former New Jersey Casino Control Commission member Carl Zeitz that demonized the stripping of the CCC’s powers in a 2011 bill and also questioned PokerStars past.

Caputo’s column even links to Zeitz’s column.

Zeitz now works as a consultant for the Sheldon Adelson backed anti-online gambling group Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG).

Caputo’s opposition to online gambling

Opposing online gambling of any kind is nothing new to Assemblyman Caputo.

Caputo, who represents New Jersey’s 28th district, was one of just five New Jersey Assembly members who voted against the state’s online gambling bill passed in 2013, which passed by a final tally of 69-5-1 in the Assembly.

At the time, Caputo explained his no-vote on online gambling expansion to John Brennan of North Jersey.com thusly:

I’m not anti-gaming, but someone but I believe that someone should get up in the morning, take the day off, and visit a place where gaming is going on if they want to gamble,” Caputo said. “I understand the desire to bring in more revenue, but this is not the way to do it. People show go once or twice a month, not be playing every day. And it’s not like the lottery, where it’s just a buck or two.

As he states, Caputo is not against gaming. Prior to becoming an Assemblyman he worked at both the Showboat and Tropicana casinos, as well as for Donald Trump.

And his voting record shows him to be a staunch supporter of land-based gaming, but vehemently against online gambling –a position that is in perfect alignment with CSIG’s and Sheldon Adelson’s views.

Caputo’s support for Meadowlands Racetrack

Caputo, whose district abuts the Meadowlands Racetrack, is a a staunch proponent for the Meadowlands Racetrack. He’s appeared for charity events and even sponsored a bill to designate a special “First Race of the Year” be held at the racetrack.

Caputo is also one of the champions of expanding land-based casino gaming in New Jersey beyond Atlantic City – and, more specifically, of expanded gaming at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Caputo sponsored a measure in 2011 to form a “Casino Gaming Study Commission” that would explore expanded gaming in the state, citing concerns over New Jersey’s localized gambling options.

Ever one to cheerlead for the Meadowlands Racetrack, at the time the measure was introduced Caputo stated, “… we have some of the most prized real estate in the Northeast languishing when we could be capitalizing on the proximity of the Meadowlands to lure patrons from New York City and the surrounding suburbs.”

In 2012, Caputo once again went to bat for expanded gaming at Meadowlands, when serving as the chair of the commission, he made a lengthy statement which reads in part:

Bringing gaming to the Meadowlands can help us reclaim the market and bring back much-needed revenue to New Jersey […]

Take Harrah’s, which opened a casino in Philadelphia. The Meadowlands is roughly 130 miles from Atlantic City and Philadelphia is a mere 60 miles away […]

We must act or risk New Jersey will become a gambling afterthought. That’s why I’ve proposed asking the voters to allow gaming in Bergen County. Let’s let the people decide.

Caputo’s opposition to PokerStars runs deep

In his recent op-ed Caputo uses a host of superlatives to describe PokerStars.

Here is a sampling of Caputo’s anti-PokerStars rhetoric:

  • “disgraced online gambling giant”
  • “PokerStars has a history of bad behavior”
  • “Poker­Stars’ hands may be the dirtiest”
  • “the company’s checkered history”
  • “a firm with a tainted past”

It should be noted that these are not his first anti-PokerStars comments. Caputo seems to have a particular axe to grind with PokerStars, which dates back at least a year.

Caputo was ecstatic that the Atlantic Club rejected PokerStars acquisition attempts in the lead-up to the launch of online gambling in the state, and in December 2013 Caputo also applauded the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s December decision to suspend PokerStars’ license application.

Bottom line: What we seem to be dealing with is an Assemblyman who is championing gaming expansion near his home district and in the process is vehemently opposed to online gambling (and PokerStars in particular).

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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