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Despite Delay, Lesniak Expects Online Poker in New Jersey by September

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Although legislation to license and regulate Internet gambling did not pass through the state legislature Thursday as he had projected, New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak said that he still expects Internet poker to be up and running in the Garden State by September.

Lesniak said the reason for the delay was that technical amendments from Gov. Chris Christie's office on issues such as licensing procedure weren't finished until Wednesday. He said that would have been enough time for him to push the bill through in the state senate Thursday but was not enough time to get it through the state assembly.

"We're going to have to work harder and faster to get the regulations and licenses issued, that's all," Lesniak said Thursday in a phone interview. "We'll still have it done by September. That can still be reached for sure. I was being conservative in saying it would be done by September."

Lesniak, who sponsors the bill that would allow Atlantic City casinos to host online poker sites within the state, was hoping to get the legislation passed before the New Jersey legislature spends the next week focusing on the state budget.

He said that he will get the amended bill released from senate budget committee on March 27 and expects the legislation to pass through both houses of the state legislature in the first half of April.

Lesniak told PokerNews last week that Gov. Christie, who vetoed a similar bill last year, would sign it this time around.

While the previous legislation would have allowed for Internet gambling only within state borders, Lesniak expects that the Justice Department's opinion that the Wire Act does not apply to online poker will allow for New Jersey to form compacts with other states. These states would be interested in receiving revenue from their residents playing online poker while leaving the regulatory duties to a state experienced in gambling regulation.

Nevada, which has already approved regulations and begun taking applications for licenses, has a head start on New Jersey to become the first state with regulated online poker.

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