Lesniak is a longtime champion of regulated iGaming and was the driving force behind behind legislation that allowed online poker and gambling in 2012.
NJ.com had details of his plans:
Lesniak (D-Union) said he plans to focus “on the issues I championed in my legislative career,” and will not seek reelection to the state Senate. He’s served in the Legislature for 37 years.
“I’m not running for reelection. I plan on running for governor,” Lesniak said.
“It has been a long time in the making, about a year,” he said. “I just saw that the problems of this state are not being addressed and I believe that I’m best person who can get in there and say what needs to get done and get it done.”
However, that’s apparently not an “official” announcement, as he told Politico.
Although New Jersey already has regulated iGaming, there are certainly things that could happen moving forward with Lesniak in the governor’s mansion. For example:
National Conference of State Legislatures unanimously approves @SenatorLesniak resolution endorsing right of states to allow sports betting.
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) August 7, 2015
In combining all of the above, Lesniak also recently told PokerNews.com that he would be “aggressive in courting other states to join New Jersey in creating online poker liquidity, and to permit people from other countries in which online gambling is legal to play on the Atlantic City sites.”
“I would be a champion for expanding New Jersey online gambling internationally and would fight any further efforts to curtail it,” Lesniak said. “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.”
There have been proponents of legalized and regulated online gambling and poker at the federal level over the years — Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) have been the most prominent.
But at this point, it seems unlikely that there is going to be an overarching federal bill passed to allow iGaming to take place across the country — at least in the near future. (At the same time, there also seems to be very little momentum behind banning online gambling — through the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — either.)
Having Lesniak in the governorship would create the most powerful ally that iGaming proponents have in government at any level. Having congressmen and senators in Washington who champion the iGaming cause is obviously ideal, but even a group of them would have a hard time effecting change, in the current environment.
The path for iGaming and online poker appears to run through the states, and having Lesniak help to lead the charge could speed things up, and could mean more states jumping on the bandwagon.
While the idea of Lesniak going to Trenton sounds good on paper, could it happen in reality?
The run of current Gov. Chris Christie will be over, and he is running for the Republican nomination for president. What we know about New Jersey’s sentiments more than two years out is limited:
Lesniak has been popular, at least in his jurisdiction, where he ran unopposed in 2013.
Can Lesniak ascend to the governorship, and create an even more friendly environment for iGaming? There’s a chance, certainly, but we’ll likely have to wait at least until the Democratic primaries in 2017 to find out.