Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Jersey! (Is It True?)

I’ll admit it. Until early yesterday, I continued to imagine the possibility that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could execute some sort of massive slowroll. That's right... to imagine (crazily) that somehow Christie might not go along with the newly-submitted online gambling bill incorporating the recommended changes he’d made when conditionally vetoing an earlier version a few weeks back.

Was an absurd prospect to ponder, really. Most legislators in the state had already made clear that they were comfortable with the changes suggested by Christie. And in fact when it came to voting on the revised bill yesterday, both houses passed it by wide margins (68-5 in the Assembly and 35-1 in the Senate). Then Christie signed it immediately, unlike the previous two times he’d had a similar bill before him to sign and took a full 45 days before deciding how to play his hand.

So New Jersey follows Nevada and Delaware into the new, exciting but uncertain world of online gambling. Regulators in NJ will soon start to work sorting out the details of licensing and ultimately paving the way for sites to get up and running, a process that likely is going to take at least a year, perhaps even a couple.

Right now only the dozen casinos in Atlantic City will be able to go for licenses. Those who do will be able to offer all of the same games online that they have in their casinos. Thus like Delaware, New Jersey’s law covers a variety of online gambling games, while Nevada’s law is sticking with poker only.

New Jersey is also giving itself that option of entering into interstate compacts with other legally willing states, which obviously will mean a lot when it comes to poker and building big enough player pools to achieve liquidity.

Also of interest is the Rational Group’s bid to acquire the Atlantic Club casino which will be decided upon by NJ’s Casino Control Commission sometime this spring. The Rational Group, of course, is a collection of companies that includes PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, and thus should their application to purchase the Atlantic Club be approved, that’ll be a step toward PokerStars and Full Tilt essentially finding a way back into the U.S. via New Jersey.

(Have to say, I like the idea of an entity called the “Rational Group” coming in and helping remove all of these irrational thoughts I seem to have about online poker and its future in this country.)

There’s a lot that will need to fall in place, obviously, before anyone is playing online poker in New Jersey. Before that day we’ll probably see some games going live within the next few months in Nevada. And we’ll continue to hear more about other states considering their options for joining in as well.

Now I find myself experiencing a different sort of absurd, worst-case-type imagining. Again, I have no basis for it -- other than six-and-a-half years or so of upset expectations and disappointment, I suppose -- but I find myself dreading some unforeseen, federal-level swooping in to stop everything from going forward.

Unfounded applesauce, I know. Like a weak-tight player crazily fearing that his opponent is holding some huge hand, sitting there slow playing while holding the nuts. But I feel like I’ve been conditioned somehow to think this way. Gotta unlearn.

At least it will be a while before any online poker games will happen. Maybe by the time they do I’ll have gotten over such instinctive feelings of dread when it comes to legislation and the online poker in the U.S.

Maybe by then I’ll be thinking more about what it means actually to play poker.

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