For online poker fans, it’s a great time to live in the state of New Jersey. In the spring of 2013, the state implemented a multitude of new laws, guidelines and amendments all geared towards the legalization and regulation of real money online poker and casino gambling. The market launched in November of that year. Legal internet poker and casino gambling for players physically located in the Garden State has been up and running ever since.
New Jersey is presently home to four state-regulated online poker sites:
From day one, Party Borgata and Party Poker NJ have been networked together by their respective bwin.party platform, sharing players across all cash games and tournaments. As the market leveled out, WSOP.com and 888 Poker NJ, both powered by 888 software, chose to combine their player bases on limited cash games and tournaments. As such, only two networks are now competing in New Jersey – the Party Borgata network, and the WSOP/888 network.
Having access to US-regulated online poker sites in the Garden State means that players are not only able to play without fear of possible penalty from participating in an unregulated market, they can enjoy much more suitable protection from unscrupulous behavior on the part of operators. They also have access to a wider range of gambling opportunities as New Jersey chose to incorporate both online poker and online casino style games.
Legality of Online Poker New Jersey
Playing poker at sites regulated by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJ DGE) is 100% legal.
On February 6, 2013—one year after it was introduced—A 2578, a bill to authorize internet gambling, was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie. Exactly 9 nine months later, on November 26, 2013, the very first licensed online poker and casino websites went live in the Garden State.
The finer point soft New Jersey’s online gaming laws state:
- Only adult players (age 21+), physically located in the state of New Jersey, may participate in regulated online poker and casino games.
- Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) is taxed at 15%.
- Self-exclusions programs are in place, giving players the option to limit their deposits/spending at NJ poker and casino websites over a determined period of time.
- All authorized operators must partner with, and house their servers within the confines of, a licensed Atlantic City casino.
- New Jersey has the right to enter into interstate compacts to share liquidity with other states where online poker is legal (although to date, the NJ DGE has not elected to do so).
It should be noted that it is not, nor has it ever been, illegal for players in New Jersey to access offshore online poker or casino websites. However, thanks to an amendment enacted as part of the state’s iGaming regulations, it is illegal for operators to accept players from New Jersey.
“[All] Except as authorized under the laws and the Constitution of this State, all wagers, bets or stakes made to depend upon any race or game, or upon any gaming by lot or chance, or upon any lot, chance, casualty or unknown or contingent event, shall be unlawful. This section shall apply to any wager, bet or stake made if any party to the transaction is present in this State when the transaction occurs, regardless of the location of any other party to the transaction, and without regard to whether the transaction is conducted in person or through a medium of communication, including but not limited to mail, telephone, television, telegraph, facsimile, cable, wire, satellite, the Internet, wireless network, or other medium of communication. ”.
In essence, players can play where they please, but they cannot promote offshore websites, and the operator may be penalized for accepting players from New Jersey. It’s also worth noting that offshore players won’t have the same level of protection afforded to those who play at websites regulated by the NJ DGE.
New Jersey Revised Statutes – Gambling
These laws, found in New Jersey Statutes, Chapter 27, were amended as follows to integrate online poker and other forms of internet casino gambling into mainstream law. Note that some text may be notably altered or shortened to maintain fluency without changing the intended meaning.
C.5:12-5 “Authorized game” or “authorized gambling game”
5. “Authorized Game” or “Authorized Gambling Game”– Roulette, baccarat, blackjack, craps, big six wheel, slot machines, minibaccarat, red dog, pai gow, and sic bo; any variations or composites of such games… found by the division suitable for use… “Authorized game” or “authorized gambling game” includes gaming tournaments in which players compete against one another in one or more of the games authorized herein… “Authorized game” or “Authorized gambling game” shall also include any game that the division may determine by regulation to be suitable for use for wagering through the Internet.
C.5:12-28.1 “Internet gaming.”
5. “Internet gaming” means the placing of wagers with a casino licensee at a casino located in Atlantic City using a computer network of both federal and non-federal interoperable packet switched data networks through which the casino licensee may offer authorized games to individuals who have established a wagering account with the casino licensee and who are physically present in this State, as authorized by rules established by the division.
C.5:12-95.23 Conditions for acceptance of Internet wagers.
21. A casino licensee may accept Internet gaming account wagers only as follows:
a. The account wager shall be placed directly with the casino licensee by the holder of the wagering account and the casino licensee has verified the account holder’s physical presence in this State.
b. The account holder placing the account wager shall provide the casino licensee with the correct authentication information for access to the wagering account.
c. A casino licensee may not accept an account wager in an amount in excess of funds on deposit in the wagering account of the holder placing the wager. Funds on deposit include amounts credited… and in the account at the time the wager is placed.
C.5:12-95.26 Offering of Internet gaming without approval, fourth degree crime; fines.
24. Any person who offers games into play or displays such games through Internet gaming without approval of the division to do so is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree and notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:43-3, shall be subject to a fine of not more than $25,000 and in the case of a person other than a natural person, to a fine of not more than $100,000 and any other appropriate disposition authorized by subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-2.
What does it all mean?
It means a lot of things, actually. First, and most importantly, it means that online poker is legal in New Jersey, under certain conditions. The internet poker site must be operated by a land-based casino with its servers located within Atlantic City. The operator and all of its service providers (software supplier, payment facilitator, etc.) must be approved and licensed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Players must be of legal age (21+) and physically located within the borders of New Jersey. Players must have a verified account with the operator, and may only use their own account, never allowing another access to it.
Last but not least, any online poker operator that lacks the “approval of the division” (i.e. licensing, cross-border compact, etc.) may not provide its services to players in New Jersey. That means that, by the new online poker laws in New Jersey, offshore gambling sites are illegal. However, as previously noted, the threat of penalty lies with the operator, not the player.
Is New Jersey working to enter compacts with other states?
Not yet. Law makers in New Jersey have made it abundantly clear that they have the right to enter into compacts with other states, like Delaware and Nevada, to share player bases across their borders. The required legislation to do so has already been enacted:
C.5:12-95.31 Acceptance of certain out-of-State wagers.
29. Notwithstanding any other provision of P.L.2013, c.27 (C.5:12-95.17 et al.), wagers may be accepted thereunder from persons who are not physically present in this State if the Division of Gaming Enforcement in the Department of Law and Public Safety determines that such wagering is not inconsistent with federal law or the law of the jurisdiction, including any foreign nation, in which any such person is located, or such wagering is conducted pursuant to a reciprocal agreement to which this State is a party that is not inconsistent with federal law.
Unfortunately, after nearly two years of active iGaming, the state has yet to make any move to sign a compact with another state. Nevada and Delaware signed an interstate compact in 2014 that finally went into effect earlier this year. We can only assume that New Jersey is waiting to see how well that goes before taking the big leap.