New Jersey isn’t without its trivia-style references in pop culture. Can anyone say “Sopranos”? And let’s never forget that Jersey is the home of the second-largest gambling city in the nation, Atlantic City. But when it came to online gambling, New Jersey basically did what the federal government demanded with the UIGEA, in that they had banned it to the general public (prior 2013). However, just this past Wednesday gambling regulators within the state took a giant step forward for New Jersey, and thumbed the eyes of the feds a bit, when they actually approved some very large poker sites in the state. Simply put, legal New Jersey online gambling continues to grow offering more and more options for state residents.
Amaya Inc., one of the largest poker providers on the planet, must have been doing something correctly when the New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement gave them the go-ahead to start offering its poker brands within the state, with Jersey’s full backing in licensing. This means Amaya sites like Full Tilt and PokerStars are now available in New Jersey. This marriage isn’t exactly unlikely. After all, the company that provides these large poker sites is actually affiliated with a few casino resorts in Atlantic City, so the marriage is one that makes sense, practically and financially.
Though an important note to keep in mind about New Jersey is that they never carried water for the feds against gambling in general. Because their Gaming Division was always dealing with tangible AC casinos, the state actually had 17 legal sites which they sanctioned via licenses prior to last week’s ruling. However, these 17 sites received very minimal traffic and New Jersey’s online gambling industry was dying on the vine. These two Amaya websites, which combined have 95 million registered gamblers, is the push Jersey is looking for in order to get their online gambling industry back to healthy; e.g. back to pre-UIGEA levels.
The only other legal gambling states are Delaware and Nevada, so it’s not as if the USA is a friendly stop for online gamblers. However, with moves like the one by Jersey, the state is hoping that the USA can again serve as a beacon which draws in gamblers from all over the nation.
While AC has historic roots, Internet-based gambling is actually quite new in Jersey, only coming to fruition in 2013. Of course, to call it a slow-starting industry is to put it lightly; New Jersey’s online gambling wasn’t even known about by even many hardcore gamblers within the state. That’s how obscure it was. But year by year, it has grown as it has gained more recognition. Last year, it took in $122 million, and just this year that number jumped up over 15%. The hope in Jersey is that adding PokerStars and Full Tilt will drive those numbers up even further.
“We look forward to [the move],” said David Baazov, Amaya’s chairperson. He added that he hopes his brand brings its innovative technology, its prowess and its world-class security and “game integrity to the growing New Jersey online gaming market.”
The only catch here for everyone else, of course, is that these sites are only available to New Jersey residents. So if your IP reads as being hosted in Virginia or Ohio or Cali, etc, then you will not be allowed to gamble there. Although New Jersey does have state-based sites that are open to the entire nation with freeplay, which make up part of their original 17, these Amaya sites, at least for the time being, will only be available to residents of the state.
This isn’t unexpected news for those who have been following the story; at least not in the respect that Amaya tried to get the okay. In 2013, Amaya tried the same thing, though because of legal hassles with New Jersey, the company was suspended for two years. Now that the two-year suspension is up, another vote took place, and Amaya entered the world of New Jersey with a clean record. This is fresh off of PokerStars having to pay $547 million to the Department of Justice, and after having to put roughly $400,000 into a trust account in New Jersey for unrecovered funds.
For right now, New Jersey and Amaya’s deal only includes Full Tilt and Poker Stars. But with the company owning other big sites like the European Poker Tour, StarsDraft, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and more, the two approved sites might just be the tip of the iceberg for offering legal online poker in America.