Assemb. Ralph Caputo ushers bill to stall PokerStars licensure in New Jersey

Just when it looked like things were going smoothly in New Jersey’s year-old online poker market, lawmakers could further complicate matters for iGaming operators in the state. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo introduced a new bill that aims to fortify the licensing process for online poker and casino operators. For all intents and purposes, the measure appears to be aimed at preventing PokerStars from becoming a licensed operator in New Jersey.

Assemblyman Caputo is the Chairman of the Tourism, Gaming and Arts Committee, and he’s kept it no secret that he is opposed to the licensure of PokerStars in the Garden State. In August, he authored an op-ed that appeared on NJ.com calling PokerStars, “a disgraced online gambling giant”. He downplayed the company’s acquisition by Amaya Gaming, saying that of all the iGaming operators seeking a legal foothold in the state, “PokerStars’ hands may be the dirtiest.”

In that op-ed, Caputo foreshadowed the online gambling bill introduced to the committee on Thursday. “While a casino operator is required to go through an exhaustive vetting process,” wrote Caputo, “as it stands now, Poker­Stars and its new owner will face no such scrutiny as the online gaming law requires the company to be licensed only as a vendor — a much less stringent approval process and one that does not require any public transparency.”

As the old saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’. Assemblyman Caputo’s bill, A3894, targets the state’s online gambling licensing process in the same manner as he described in his August publication. It would require online operators to go through the exact same process that land-based casinos currently undergo; a complete background investigation performed by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement, followed by a review and stamp of approval from the NJ Casino Control Commission. Such proceedings would entail full transparency, involving a public hearing with testimony and evidence of the operator’s justifications and eligibility for licensure.

“You’re not selling linens, you’re not selling cups, you’re operating an Internet casino and the integrity of those games has to be on the same level as casino gaming,” Caputo told the Press of Atlantic City.

The Committee on Tourism, Gaming and Arts voted unanimously in support of Chairman Caputo’s bill. The Assemblyman is currently seeking political figureheads to sponsor an identical measure in the Senate.

If passed into state law, A3894 would amend two sections of Section 82 of P.L.1977, c.110 (C.5:12-82). The closing statement following the amended text describes the bill’s efforts thusly:

“This bill requires each Internet gaming affiliate conducting Internet gaming in partnership with an Atlantic City casino to be licensed as a casino. This bill also prohibits the issuance of a waiver from these licensing requirements.

“Under the bill, an Internet gaming affiliate will be required to be licensed as a casino in accordance with the casino licensing requirements of the “Casino Control Act.” The bill provides that, within 30 days of its effective date, the Casino Control Commission and the Division of Gaming Enforcement must notify each Internet gaming affiliate operating in this State of the licensing requirements. Any Internet gaming affiliate which is not in compliance with the licensing requirements on the bill’s effective date would be required to be licensed within one year. Following the expiration of that one-year period, an Internet gaming affiliate which has failed to be licensed would not be eligible to continue operating in this State.”

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