Speaking at the iGaming North America 2014 conference last week, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak dangled an unprompted olive branch to PokerStars-owner Rational Group.
“We believe in competition,” stated the senator, adding that PokerStars had “paid their penalty” and clarified that the group was “not excluded” from participating in online gaming in the state.
Rational Group’s application for an online gaming license was put on hold for two years due to the continued association with PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg and other concerns.
Scheinberg formally stepped down from his executive position in July 2012 as part of its civil settlement with the United States Department of Justice. Scheinberg himself remains under federal indictment.
Lesniak, speaking via video conference at the 2014 US Policy Roundup panel on Day 1 of iGNA, clarified that ultimately the decision was up to the regulators.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, during the two year suspension, may reconsider Rationals application “if significantly changed circumstances are demonstrated,” according to the DGE’s statement issued last December.
Lesniak’s comments came unprompted, following a question from the audience to Californian senator Lou Correa, sponsor of an online poker bill in the state.
Correa chose to dodge the question of PokerStars and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians opposing any bill with a “bad actor” clause—he stated only that he wanted to “reward good actors”—but Lesniak took the opportunity to respond in favor of the online poker behemoth.
Lesniak has previously come out in support of PokerStars. Prior to the first applications being issued, the senator stated that “The biggest and the bestest with the mostest is going to have a presence here in New Jersey.”
“There are strong forces trying to prohibit them or at least keep them out of doing business for 3-to-5 years. I don’t think that’s in New Jersey’s best interests,” he told PokerNews at the time.
New Jersey is not the only state where Rational Group faces tough opposition. In California, following rumors of the Morongo partnership, a group of twelve tribes have come together to oppose any removal of a “bad actor” clause from pending legislation.