Poker pro

Le­gal New Jersey on­line games push World Se­ries cham­pion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS -

Scott Blum­stein’s path to win­ning more than $8.1 mil­lion as the World Se­ries of Poker cham­pion started in the on­line poker rooms of New Jersey.

While in­ter­net gam­bling has helped At­lantic City’s be­lea­guered casino in­dus­try be­gin to re­cover, Blum­stein cred­ited his on­line ex­pe­ri­ence with help­ing him win the big­gest prize in poker af­ter he de­feated more than 7,000 play­ers to win the se­ries’ mar­quee no-limit Texas Hold ‘em main event early Sun­day in Las Ve­gas.

“Two weeks ago, I was just a New Jersey on­line grinder and noth­ing’s re­ally changed,” the 25-year-old with an ac­count­ing de­gree from Philadel­phia’s Tem­ple Univer­sity told re­porters.

New Jersey is one of only three states that of­fer in­ter­net gam­bling, along with Ne­vada and Delaware. Other states are con­sid­er­ing le­gal­iz­ing it, in­clud­ing neigh­bour­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, but there’s also a loom­ing threat that Wash­ing­ton could crack down on the in­dus­try.

The ac­tion on­line pales in com­par­i­son to the state of on­line poker be­fore the fed­eral gov­ern­ment cracked down on off­shore sites in 2011, but play­ers in New Jersey can now legally play at all hours of the day.

Pros play mul­ti­ple games at once, in­clud­ing tour­na­ments and cash games. New Jersey also of­fers live poker in many of its At­lantic City casi­nos, with the poker room at the Bor­gata con­sid­ered among the top places to play on the East Coast.

“The best way to get bet­ter at any­thing is through rep­e­ti­tion and prac­tice,” said Blum­stein, who lives in Brig­an­tine, next to At­lantic City. “When you play on­line in New Jersey, it’s hard for any live pro to see even close to the amount of hands I’ve prob­a­bly seen in the last two years.”

Blum­stein won about $200,000 in his largest pre­vi­ous cash af­ter win­ning a $500 tour­na­ment at the Bor­gata last year.

Four years on­line

Repub­li­can New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie le­gal­ized in­ter­net gam­bling, in­clud­ing poker, in Fe­bru­ary 2013, a month be­fore Blum­stein turned 21.

On­line sites backed by the state’s casi­nos be­gan tak­ing bets on­line in Novem­ber 2013.

That has helped re­vive At­lantic City’s strug­gling casino in­dus­try, which has seen five of its 12 casi­nos go out of busi­ness in the last three years.

At­lantic City’s casi­nos posted their first rev­enue in­crease in a decade last year backed by money won from gam­blers on­line.

Only play­ers phys­i­cally in the state can gam­ble on­line, with an elec­tronic fence cre­ated by ge­olo­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy keep­ing oth­ers out.

Play­ers in Ne­vada and Delaware can play against each other, but New Jersey has yet to reach an agree­ment with the other states.

Fed­eral crack­down?

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions has said he wants to take a sec­ond look at a Jus­tice Depart­ment rul­ing au­tho­riz­ing in­ter­net gam­bling, and sev­eral mea­sures have been pro­posed but not en­acted.

Christie on Fri­day signed a mea­sure urg­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the Repub­li­can­con­trolled Congress not to ban in­ter­net gam­bling.

In an in­ter­view last year with The As­so­ci­ated Press dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Trump de­clined to take a po­si­tion, say­ing “I have a lot of friends on both sides of this is­sue.”

Las Ve­gas Sands casino mag­nate Shel­don Adel­son, a strong fi­nan­cial sup­porter of Trump, is one of the lead­ing pro­po­nents seek­ing to stop it.

The bill passed by the Demo­crat-con­trolled New Jersey Leg­is­la­ture and signed by Christie says a fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tion against in­ter­net gam­bling would neg­a­tively im­pact New Jersey, “dis­man­tling the in­vest­ments that the state and At­lantic City casi­nos have al­ready made to im­ple­ment and reg­u­late in­ter­net gam­ing.”

AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER

Scott Blum­stein poses for pho­tog­ra­phers af­ter win­ning the World Se­ries of Poker main event, Sun­day, July 23, in Las Ve­gas.

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