Despite Sandoval's Readiness, Christie May See Little Political Upside In Shared Online Poker Liquidity

Governor Sandoval Says Nevada Is Ready To Sign Interstate Online Poker Compact With New Jersey

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At the Friday May 13 meeting of the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, Governor Brian Sandoval said that he was willing to sign an interstate compact to share online poker liquidity with New Jersey immediately.

“I’m ready to go,” said the governor, adding, “It’s a win-win for both states.”

The governor was immediately backed by A.G. Burnett, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Burnett said that he was “ready, willing and able” to sign an interstate agreement with New Jersey.

The Policy Committee was clearly unsure as to why New Jersey was not equally enthusiastic.

The server issue is a “red herring”

The committee told the governor, who was chairing the meeting, that New Jersey had expressed constitutional concerns over the location of online poker game servers.

A.G Burnett replied that the issue was a “red herring” that could easily be solved.

The committee was enjoined to explore the issue further, in time for the next meeting in October, but the stumbling block is likely to be political rather than practical.

The New Jersey DGE is open to shared liquidity

In November 2014, David Rebuck, Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), gave an interview (paywall) to a Philadelphia newspaper in which he said that discussions on the issue had already taken place with Nevada. The DGE had also discussed the issue with regulators in the UK.

Unless the DGE was serious about the possibility, no discussions would have been initiated.

Rebuck’s support for shared liquidity can be deduced, but in public statements he can only say that there is no deal imminent for “reciprocal agreements to expand online gambling.”

Ugly politics may be preventing progress

Even with his massive economic footprint in Nevada, Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson has been unable to prevent online poker being authorized, but his wider campaign against online gambling is also powerful in New Jersey.

New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) openly accused Republican Governor Chris Christie of interfering in the licensing process for PokerStars.

He has also linked Governor Christie with supporting Adelson behind the scenes. In November 2014, Lesniak tweeted his opinion.

Before and during Governor Christie’s failed bid to secure the Republican presidential nomination, there were reports of him receiving and giving support to Adelson.

Adelson told Bloomberg TV that he had had conversations with Christie about the original bill which introduced state-regulated online gambling in New Jersey.

Christie has acknowledged that he has had conversations with Adelson, and taken trips on Adelson’s private jet, but he has resolutely denied that he interfered in any way with the PokerStars license application.

Nonetheless, there appears to be little political upside for Christie to extend New Jersey’s regulated gambling market or agree a shared liquidity compact with Nevada.

However, now that Christie’s presidential bid has failed, he may no longer need as much support from Adelson.

If Nevada is to succeed in its bid to unify the Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey poker markets, it will have to rely on the possibility that the issue has become politically neutral–this year may still be too early.

- A former founder of Poker Industry Pro and Head of Content at PokerNews publisher iBus Media, Joss Wood is a graduate in English from the University of Birmingham. Joss also holds a master’s degree in Organisational Development from the University of Manchester. His career path has taken him from the British Army, through business and finance to seven years as a successful professional poker player.
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