2012/13 was certainly a bumper year for the online gambling industry, with no less than three states witnessing the launch of newly-legal online poker rooms and casinos. New Jersey joined both Delaware and Nevada by enacting a new law in February 2013, with its first online casinos launching in late November. The federal government's attitude toward virtual gambling remains unchanged, though, and there are still plenty of hurdles to pass before New Jersey can lay its claim to the USA's online gambling crown.
Since the enactment of the Federal Wire Act 1961, gambling across state lines has been almost entirely illegal across the US. Although the law was originally designed to thwart bets made by telephone or telegraph from other states to Las Vegas, in the modern day it has also served as a barrier to the provision of online gambling services. Things changed in December 2011, though, when the Department of Justice conceded that the 1961 Act was specific only to sports betting, thereby paving the way for individual states to decide whether or not to allow other forms of online gambling within their borders.
Following in the paths of both Nevada and Delaware, New Jersey governor Chris Christie made the most of this decision by signing a bill that legalised online casinos and poker rooms into law in February 2013. These sites will be allowed to operate for a 10-year trial period, providing that they are operated by Atlantic City's 12 existing casinos. While a number of land casinos have launched their own dedicated sites, others have chosen to partner with celebrated international providers such as 888 and Betfair, allowing them to get a head start in the race to become the most popular (and profitable) site.
Whereas the law takes a rather liberal approach to online gambling when compared to the majority of US states, there are a number of conditions that need to be met before a person can legally access any of the virtual casinos. In addition to being at least 21-years-old, users must only play from within the state's borders, with their location checked and verified by GPS software every time they login. Of course, this law isn't all about giving the citizens what they want - the state legislature is also excited about the potential revenue generation opportunities, especially when considering that online operations will pay a 15% tax on their activities, compared to just 8% for a physical venue.
The successful launch of several online casinos illustrates the popularity of casino games such as Roulette and Blackjack, as well as video slots and video poker. Poker is also a very popular market across New Jersey, especially in the casinos of Atlantic City, where both high rollers and newcomers can easily find a whole range of tournaments and competitions.
One market that is notably absent from New Jersey is sports betting. While several attempts to legalise the practice have been made by Gov. Christie, the latest ruling from a federal appeals court maintained the blanket ban on sports betting within the state, agreeing with several sporting bodies who argued that allowing sports bets would "harm the integrity" of their games.
Atlantic City hosts a number of major tournaments, including a leg of the World Series of Poker circuit in Harrah's Resort, usually around late November. The World Poker Tour also holds two major events at the Borgata Casino, adding further to the city's prestige - the first is the WPT Winter Poker Open in January, while the larger WPT World Championship takes place in late April.
Apart from a few technical difficulties with the geolocation software, the launch of New Jersey’s online gambling services has been hailed as both a success and a positive step forward for the industry. According to the Washington Post, revenues from the state’s online gambling venture may reach $200 million to $300 million within its first year. While this is only a fraction of the $2.8 billion racked up by the casinos in Atlantic City, it offers another revenue stream for the state to take advantage of.
New Jersey's self-proclaimed status as a test case could also have wider ramifications for online gambling throughout the US. If the 10-year trial period is successful, it would seem only a matter of time before other states began to see the potential of such a huge revenue stream and started to enter into partnerships to allow cross-border gaming. As for New Jersey itself, the battle to bring sports betting to the state rages on, with the Supreme Court now its only hope. Until then, residents will be able to make the most of online casinos and poker rooms aplenty.
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