For online poker fans, it’s a great time to live in the state of New Jersey. Since spring of this year, the state has 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 tentative launch date of November 26, 2013 is just a month away, and there doesn’t seem to be any obstacles blocking their path that would push that date any further back.
With a population of nearly 9 million and a strong land-based poker regime, there are thousands upon thousands of people in New Jersey who have, at one time or another, enjoyed the pastime of playing online poker. Once the Garden State’s own regulated internet gaming market goes live next month, players will not only be able to play without fear of possible penalty from participating in an unregulated market, they will enjoy much more suitable protection from unscrupulous behavior on the part of operators. They will 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
At the moment, regulated online poker is not yet available in New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean playing online poker is against the law, either. There was never any penalty imposed upon players for gambling at what the state considers to be an illegal gambling operation. Illegal gambling takes place when a person or operator presents a gambling opportunity that is not explicitly licensed to provide the activity. The law (Sec 2A:40-1) was recently amended as follows:
“[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. ”.
But again, with no penalty for players, so long as a player doesn’t cross the line into “promoting gambling” (meaning you can’t even tell another person about the illegal gambling activity or help in any way to promote to conduct it), there is no reason a person can’t play online poker at any respectable site that will accept their wagering dollars.
With that said, we’re going to focus on the new online poker laws in New Jersey, which have already gone into effect despite the fact that regulated online poker sites won’t go live statewide until November 26. Let’s take a look at the current statutes and how online poker became legal in New Jersey.
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? Is online poker illegal in New Jersey?
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 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 before, the threat of penalty lies with the operator, not the player.
Is New Jersey working to enter compacts with other states?
Yes! Law makers in New Jersey have made it abundantly clear that they wish to enter into compacts with other states, Nevada in particular, to share player bases across their borders. In fact, legislators in New Jersey have already inked the required legislation to make it happen:
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.
That means New Jersey is legally able to enter into a compact with any other US state or international jurisdiction provided that doing so is legal in the corresponding state or jurisdiction, and that it is not prohibited by US federal law. Compacts cannot be made until one of two things happens. It must either be deemed legal by federal law (i.e. find a stable loophole), or the current one-legged law prohibiting it must be amended to permit compacts (i.e. federal regulation of online poker).