Mixed News On All Poker Fronts – NJ, IA, WPT and NBC

Today was a big day for poker news in every form. Definitive decisions were made on pending poker legislation in both Iowa and New Jersey. The WPT’s Celebrity Invitational was decided only the day before the L.A. Poker Classic’s Main Event will also draw to a close. And just as the LA Poker Classic leaves town, NBC’s National Heads-Up Poker Championship will be starting its first round of eliminations in Las Vegas.

We’ll start with the good news for U.S. online poker legislation. It’s coming from Iowa of all places where the Government Committee passed a measure that would legalize online poker in the state per Senate Study Bill 1165. While the vote was still relatively close at 9-6, it nevertheless gave the bill the majority it needed to move on to the next stage. Now it’s up to the full state Senate to decide if intrastate online poker is right for Iowa.

Now for the bad news. That’s coming from New Jersey where, in a surprise last minute move, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the state’s Internet gambling bill. That same bill had already passed through all the necessary channels, receiving significant support in both Senate and the Assembly. The bill reached its original deadline last week.

The Governor could have chosen to reserve comment on the bill and it would have passed into law automatically, but when his offices filed an extension instead much of the poker world saw it as a sign that Christie was not on board. While Christie pointed to technical issues with the bill’s wording as a means of defending his veto, some have surmised that he is simply afraid to take a firm stance on the issue either way. Had Christie approved the bill, it would have made Iowa the first U.S. state to pass such legislation. The bill’s creator, State Senator Raymond Lesniak, has already publicly voiced his intent to rewrite the bill and get it in front of the Governor again this year.

In other poker news, since live poker remains totally legal in the United States, the 2011 tournament schedule is once again packed. This week alone will see the end of the L.A. Poker Classic and the beginning of NBC’s televised National Heads-Up Poker Championship. In L.A., pro Davidi Kitai just took the WPT’s Celebrity Invitational. Kitai already has a WSOP title, so winning such a high profile WPT event will no doubt be another boon to his thus far relatively stagnant career (as will the $100,000 payout).

Only one state away, the famous Caesars Palace hotel and casino is prepared to kick off the 7th Annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Only 64 players – a combination of old and young pros with a handful of celebrities mixed in for interest – were invited to compete. Tonight’s action is merely a formality as all the competitors get together to promote the event. Tomorrow, though, they will engage in their first match-ups which means that the entire field will be narrowed down to just 32 before what is sure to be a very intense weekend.

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