Lesniak: Internet gaming “cornerstone” of next gaming summit

The second of three Democrat-only gaming summits delving into the details and alternatives to the administration’s Hanson Report will be held on Friday, Sep. 10 at Pegasus West at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford.

One of the most active parties on behalf of the upstate-based racing industry has been State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth).

But it isn’t a straightforward pitch by Lesniak that he thinks will benefit all parties involved. It’s a curveball: Internet gaming.

“It’s the only practical solution to help out both Atlantic City and the Meadowlands Racetrack,” Lesniak told PolitickerNJ today.

While video lottery terminals (VLTs), or slots, are a possible solution, Lesniak said, “they haven’t gained acceptance from key legislators or the governor.” But neither has internet gaming.

Why not?

“They’re listening to casinos’ interests out(side) of New Jersey,” Lesniak claims. “It would hurt their bottom-line profits in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and NewYork.”

For too long, legislative proponents say, internet gaming has succeeded on foreign soil while the U.S. passes up a multi-million dollar industry.

But Lesniak said even in America, some industry insiders are trying to create a very limited market. Harrahs, he said, has lobbied in Washington D.C. to keep New Jersey out of the internet gaming emergence to the benefit of their Nevada operations.

“Unfortunately they have a lot of sway over the legislators,” he said.

He’s in the process of rounding up allies, like State Sen. President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), and State Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic City).

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Belleville), who spent nearly two decades in the gaming industry, thinks Lesniak is on the right path in searching for a new revenue steam, but isn’t getting behind internet gaming, per se. Slots, Caputo said, are the key.

“Atlantic City is under a tremendous amount of pressure. Nothing in that report will stem the loss of revenue at this point,” he contends.

“That’s what Sen. Lesniak is looking at with his point,” but Caputo said it’s the slot parlors that are raking in the dough. The administration has been clear on gaming staying in Atlantic City, and Atlantic City only, as is spelled out in the Hanson Report.

“They closed the book on it, but we should let the people of New Jersey decide like they did in 1976. It’s gonna be a tough fight, but it’s a reality,” Caputo said. “We could end up losing two industries.”

“Why would (New Yorkers) drive to AC when they could be somewhere within the hour,” he said, like Yonkers which is bringing over $500 million in gaming revenue.

“These places are jamming with business.”

He said Atlantic City investors should take a stake in Meadowlands gaming and reap some profits, as should the state.

“We’re talking billions of dollars eventually,” Caputo said. “I know there’s a stubbornness for facing that reality, even from some of the legislators. Some of the Republicans (in the north) support it (but) I don’t think they’ll come out about it with the governor’s position.”

South Jersey, he said has pretty well established their position, too: “They’re aligned with the Hanson Report.”

“I’d really like to see Mr. Hanson show up,” Caputo said. “I’m looking for him.”

Also up for discussion at the second summit is the horseracing industry, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, and the starcrossed Xanadu project.