New Jersey Legislator Introduces Bill to Allow International iGaming Player Pool Sharing

New Jersey Legislator Introduces Bill to Allow International iGaming Player Pool Sharing

New Jersey operates the most successful statewide online gambling industry in America, but lawmakers in the Garden State are gearing up for international integration.

On November 30, state senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) introduced Senate Bill 3536, which would revise current regulations by allowing computer servers and other equipment used in New Jersey’s iGaming industry to be operated outside of Atlantic City.

If passed, SB-3536 – which is bears the title “An Act Allowing Location of Internet Gaming Equipment Outside of Atlantic City Under Certain Circumstances” – would pave the way for New Jersey to share its online casino and poker player pools with international operators in Europe and elsewhere.

In a concluding statement attached to SB-3536, Lesniak summarized the bill’s intent:

“Under current law, Internet gaming equipment is required to be located within the territorial boundaries of Atlantic City.

This bill allows the division to permit Internet gaming equipment to be located outside of Atlantic City if the division deems it necessary to facilitate the conduct of international Internet wagering.”

Existing regulations were put in place by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) in 2013, when New Jersey legalized online gambling through licenses issued to Atlantic City casinos. Under the New Jersey State Constitution, gambling activity in New Jersey is confined to Atlantic City only, and requiring essential equipment involved in the iGaming industry to be physically located there preserves the iGaming law’s constitutionality.

But as Lesniak noted in his bill’s text, NJDGE regulations also permit player sharing agreements with other jurisdictions – including foreign nations – provided such agreements remain consistent with federal law.

In October of this year, New Jersey forged such an agreement with Nevada and Delaware, the two other states which had legalized iGaming at the time (Pennsylvania has since passed legislation to become the fourth).

And in August, a preliminary agreement to share online poker player liquidity with the United Kingdom fell through, in large part due to the current locational law.

At the time, NJDGE director David Rebuck explained how an emphasis on Atlantic City served to scuttle the U.K. deal:

“Our law is very restricted in that the gaming servers, the actual gaming servers that allow for the outcome of the game to be determined, have to be in Atlantic City, and that’s just not a business model that they were willing to adopt.

If those states will not allow their gaming servers for online gaming to be here, we really are kind of stuck, unless there is a legislative change. We’re not in a very strong position to effectuate liquidity with those restrictions.”

By removing the current restrictions and allowing similar agreements to be enacted, Lesniak’s bill would let international players access New Jersey’s online casinos and poker rooms.

So-called common operators – or iGaming companies like PartyPoker, PokerStars, and Betfair currently serving customers in New Jersey and abroad – would benefit through increased player liquidity. Per data compiled by player volume tracking site PokerScout, the New Jersey-based PokerStars platform maintains a seven-day average of just 110 active players at any one time. If connected to the international site through player sharing, that number would grow by 11,000 players.

Lesniak has spent much of his four decades in the New Jersey statehouse advocating for gambling expansion, and he issued a statement explaining where SB-3536 fits into his legacy:

“I’ve changed my mission from making New Jersey the Silicon Valley of internet gaming to the Mecca of internet gaming.

Online gaming has helped Atlantic City revive its casino sector with a success that we can expand in ways that will generate more revenue, create jobs and fuel technological innovation in gaming.”

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Online Casino Players in New Jersey Scoring Significant Slot Jackpots

Online Casino Players in New Jersey Scoring Significant Slot Jackpots

Per a report entitled “Atlantic City Jackpots $ 75,000 and Over,” which is released monthly by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), the Garden State’s online casino industry has become fertile ground for five-figure payouts and beyond.

The report revealed that New Jersey’s entire gambling industry – combining online and land-based casinos – paid out 124 jackpots totaling $ 19,076,307 from January 1 through November 30 of this year.

Of those, 23 jackpot winners claimed their prize through virtual slot machines or video poker games offered by one of New Jersey’s five licensed online casino operators.

BorgataCasino.com led the way by awarding seven jackpots of $ 75,000 or more, followed by GoldenNuggetCasino.com and BetfairCasino.com at six each. PlaySugarHouse.com, NJPartyPoker.com, VirginCasino.com, and TropicanaCasino.com paid out a single jackpot apiece.

The largest online jackpot in New Jersey history was won through GoldenNuggetCasino.com on August 24, when a player pocketed a massive $ 271,268 progressive jackpot. The player, who asked that only her first name of Susan be released, was playing the Divine Fortune slot game for $ 10 per spin when the reels aligned perfectly to produce the six-figure payout.

Divine Fortune is designed by iGaming software supplier NetEnt Gaming, which was formerly known as Net Entertainment. The game is centered around the theme of Greek mythology, and features a three-reel, five-row alignment with 20 paylines. Players have three progressive jackpots on the line – Minor, Major, and Mega – which offer average payouts of $ 5, $ 50, and $ 200,000, respectively.

The NJDGE data revealed Divine Fortune to rank among the most profitable online slot titles in the state, with more than a million dollars in jackpot payouts attributed to the game.

Through the first 11 months of 2017, Divine Fortune has dispensed $ 1,019,566 via jackpot alone.

Those wins took place across three different online casino platforms, as shown below:

  • November 1 on BetfairCasino.com for $ 136,629
  • September 26 on GoldenNuggetCasino.com for $ 146,418
  • September 17 on BetfairCasino.com for $ 121,547
  • September 11 on PlaySugarHouse.com for $ 91,681
  • August 24 on GoldenNuggetCasino.com for $ 271,268
  • July 7 on BetfairCasino.com for $ 132,396
  • May 18 on GoldenNuggetCasino.com for $ 119,627

In each case, Divine Fortune players used a wager of just $ 1 or $ 2 to land the elusive jackpot.

Susan’s spectacular slot result surpassed the previous New Jersey record for online jackpots, which was set on June 25 by Kim Seib.

A native of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Seib found herself killing time before work when she fired up the Wonderland slot – a five-reel, four-row progressive jackpot game with 100 paylines.

As she told the Tropicana Casino Blog after the life-changing spin, Seib was hunting specifically for sizable jackpots:

“I was about to log out, but I ultimately decided to play Wonderland after noticing how high the jackpot amount was up to. I thought to myself, ‘What the heck, I’ll give it one last shot!’

During my 15 minutes or so of playing Wonderland I got the Rose Garden Bonus and only completed painting about five roses before the Queen popped up. Then I got it again. I was clicking my laptop buttons and completed five, six, and seven.

All of a sudden, they were all completed… jackpot!  I sat there in total shock, thinking, ‘this can’t be. No way!’”

According to Seib, she’s been a regular online casino player for most of New Jersey’s regulated iGaming experiment:

“My husband and I love going to Tropicana Casino Atlantic City. But with our schedules, it makes it hard to visit like we want to.

So, I just decided to try Tropicana’s online casino, and here we are three years later.”

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WSOP.com New Jersey Poker Classic Wraps up This Weekend with $100,000 Guaranteed Main Event

WSOP.com New Jersey Poker Classic Wraps up This Weekend with $100,000 Guaranteed Main Event

From Saturday, November 18 through Monday, November 20, the WSOP.com New Jersey Poker Classic online tournament series will come to a close.

The series began on November 10, offering 38 tournaments and $ 500,000 in guaranteed prize pools to players in New Jersey’s regulated iGaming market.

But the grand finale takes place Sunday at 5:00 p.m. local time, with a $ 500 buy-in Main Event sporting a $ 100,000 guarantee – ensuring the eventual winner will pocket a sizable five-figure score.

The New Jersey Poker Classic Main Event is a No Limit Hold’em (NLHE) tournament, and players are permitted to reenter for another $ 500 through the reentry period.

For folks working on a tighter bankroll, WSOP.com is also hosting several smaller events on Saturday evening to conclude the series.

Event #28 costs only $ 50 to enter, and players will be competing for their share of an $ 8,000 guaranteed prize pool. The format is NLHE with rebuys and an add-on, along with deeper starting stacks.

Event #29, the “Saturday Best” NLHE reentry tournament, ups the ante to $ 320 while guaranteeing a prize pool of $ 25,000.

And in Event #30, players will pay $ 150 to take part in NLHE six-handed reentry action, with a $ 10,000 guaranteed prize pool up for grabs.

Bill Rini, who serves as head of online poker for the World Series of Poker (WSOP), spoke to Online Poker Report about using a balanced approach when setting the New Jersey Poker Classic schedule:

“Every tournament schedule is part art and part science. We have data to go off of, but the wants and needs of players change over time. So, you have to go into it knowing that a spreadsheet is never going to give you everything.

From the beginning, our positioning has been to be the best place to play poker online. We offer a great experience for players, chances to win WSOP packages, and players know and trust the brand.”

Rini’s last shot at developing an online tournament series in the Garden State occurred last summer, when WSOP.com hosted the New Jersey Online Championships. The schedule for that one featured over twice as many events at 93, but the guaranteed prize pools were halved at $ 250,000.

Last month saw PokerStars.nj – WSOP.com’s chief rival in New Jersey – host the second annual New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP). That series spread 46 events and $ 1.2 million in guarantees over 17 days of action, but while overall attendance increased slightly over last year’s edition, seven tournaments failed to meet their guarantee.

The overlays were relatively minor, and tended to affect larger buy-in events, but as Rini told Online Poker Report, WSOP.com carefully observed PokerStars’ progress on the tournament series front:

“As far as the competition, I don’t want to say that we don’t pay attention but they’re often playing off other strengths and weaknesses, so what works for them might not be right for us.

We just try to be very good at what we set out to do.”

Player volume data tracked by the PokerScout site shows WSOP.com and PokerStars.nj are neck and neck in the race for market share supremacy. Both sites show a rolling seven-day average of 80 active players at any given time, good enough to beat out the PartyPoker.nj platform and its seven-day average of 70 active users.

Anybody who busts out of the Main Event can hop in one of seven side events scheduled for Sunday and Monday. The buy-ins for these NLHE events range from just $ 30 to $ 250, with guarantees between $ 4,000 and $ 25,000.

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New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware Agree to Share Online Poker Player Pools

New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware Agree to Share Online Poker Player Pools

Following four years of negotiation, the governors of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have finally agreed to share online poker player pools.

The interstate iGaming compact links the three jurisdictions – which are currently the only three American states offering legal online gambling – by allowing poker players to compete against one another across state lines.

Nevada and Delaware forged a similar agreement in 2015, with operator 888 Holdings combining online poker player pools across its WSOP.com (Nevada) and 888Poker (Delaware) platforms.

But iGaming industry experts have long contended that the New Jersey market – which is much larger and more active – was the lynchpin to improving lagging player liquidity levels.

Within an isolated iGaming market, also known as “ring-fenced” markets, online poker players can only compete against opponents located in the same jurisdiction. This limitation serves as an artificial cap on liquidity, forcing major platforms like WSOP.com operating in more than one market to divide their customer base by location.

Conversely, under the liquidity sharing programs prevalent in the European and international markets, operators can combine player pools from multiple countries – thus expanding game selection and activity across the board.

In a statement, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey praised the long-awaited agreement as a vital step in the state’s continuing iGaming evolution:

“New Jersey has been a pioneer in the development of authorized, regulated online gaming, which has been a budding success since its launch in late 2013.

Pooling players with Nevada and Delaware will enhance annual revenue growth, attract new consumers, and create opportunities for players and Internet gaming operators.

This agreement marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for online gaming, and we look forward to working with our partners in Nevada and Delaware in this endeavor.”

David Rebuck, who serves as director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), added a statement outlining his agency’s regulatory approach to player sharing:

“New Jersey stands prepared to approve a game offering for all three states as soon as an operator submits such a product for testing.”

Rebuck’s counterpart in Nevada – chairman A.G. Burnett of the Nevada Gaming Control Board – spoke with Online Poker Report to provide perspective from the Silver State:

“The technology teams in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are going to meet to discuss next steps.

The timeline is to move toward integration ASAP.”

As Burnett mentioned, Christie’s announcement included no details on when implementation will begin.

The company which stands to benefit most from eventual player sharing is Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which owns and operates WSOP.com – the only online poker platform in Nevada. Using software provided by 888 Holdings, Caesars also operates WSOP.com in New Jersey – making it the only site with an active presence in both states.

The three iGaming platforms operated by the Delaware Lottery have an exclusive software provision agreement with 888 Holdings.

Caesars issued a statement praising regulators in all three states for coming to an agreement after years of deliberation:

“We applaud the government leadership and the regulators in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware for reaching this meaningful agreement.

We will immediately begin efforts to take our existing Delaware-Nevada compact and add New Jersey to the mix by following the requirements established by the regulators so WSOP.com can share liquidity with all three states.”

Caesars also holds the license for 888Poker in New Jersey, making it the only entity which could immediately share online poker player liquidity across all three states.

New Jersey’s other major online poker network – which includes BorgataPoker, PartyPoker, and PlayMGMPoker – is maintained by MGM Resorts International, owner of the Borgata casino in Atlantic City.

MGM’s status as a major player in Nevada land-based gaming makes the company a likely candidate to launch similar networks there, which would then be linked to their counterparts in New Jersey.

As for PokerStars, which went live in New Jersey just last year, language within Nevada’s iGaming regulations specifically prohibits the company from operating there. As such, PokerStars wouldn’t be able to benefit from interstate player sharing for the foreseeable future.

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New Jersey Says PAPSA Ban Manifestly Unconstitutional in Amicus Brief to Supreme Court

New Jersey Says PAPSA Ban Manifestly Unconstitutional in Amicus Brief to Supreme Court

In an opening brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, as part of an ongoing case over the right of individual states to legalize sports betting, the state of New Jersey came out swinging.

The brief, submitted on behalf of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and written by his lead counsel Ted Olsen, immediately asserts that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992 violates the U.S. Constitution:

“One of the ‘essential postulates’ derived from the ‘structure of the Constitution,’ is that ‘state legislatures are not subject to federal direction.’ … PASPA compels States to regulate – indeed, prohibit – sports wagering and therefore exceeds Congress’s authority.

Under our Constitution, if Congress wishes for sports wagering to be illegal, it must make the activity unlawful itself. It cannot compel States to do so.

PASPA’s conscription of New Jersey’s legislative and executive branches with respect to sports wagering is manifestly unconstitutional.”

The brief was just one of several to be submitted in recent weeks, as the Supreme Court considers the merits of a case known as Governor Christopher J. Christie, et al., v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al.

The case originated in 2011, when New Jersey voters approved a public referendum to allow legalized sports betting within the state. Two-thirds of voters supported the measure, prompting Christie to sign legislation to that end one year later.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), joined by the four professional sports leagues in North America (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL), sued New Jersey to bring the legalization process to a halt. By August of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in favor of the leagues, prompting Christie and New Jersey to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.

In a surprising move, the Court decided to take the case, with the recent wave of briefs filed on both sides representing the first step in that regard.

New Jersey has since been joined by 20 states across the country in filing briefs supporting the repeal of PAPSA:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
  • West Virginia

Patrick Morrisey, who serves as Attorney General for West Virginia, outlined the states’ argument in a previous brief to the Third Circuit:

“The concern of Amici States—the States of West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Wisconsin—is not what Congress regulates but how it does so.

Even where it has Article I authority to act, Congress may not force the States to act as the vehicle for implementing federal policy and thereby shift to the States political accountability for its actions.

Such coercion is unconstitutional commandeering.”

Speaking with Legal Sports Report, Geoff Freeman – president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association – praised the statewide cooperation as an encouraging sign in New Jersey’s attempt to end PAPSA:

“Eighteen other states have joined West Virginia in filing a separate amicus brief to the US Supreme Court. This group of bipartisan states includes representation from every corner of the country, from states with and without gaming and includes signees from state AG’s offices, as well as governors’ offices.

It also includes the president of the National Association of AGs, both co-chairs of the NAAG gaming committee, and chair of the Conference of Western Attorneys General.

Notably, it also includes the state of Utah, a state that does not have gambling, and is encouraging the federal government to get out of the way.”

Other groups and organizations which have submitted briefs in support of New Jersey’s case include the AGA, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and sports law expert Ryan Rodenberg.

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Betfair Casino New Jersey Revenue Up 39% in 2016 to Approach Profitability for First Time

Betfair Casino New Jersey Revenue Up 39% in 2016 to Approach Profitability for First Time

With the release of preliminary earnings results for 2016, Paddy Power / Betfair confirmed that the company’s New Jersey-facing online casino is nearing profitability.

Moving into the black would mark a first for the Betfair Casino New Jersey operation, which launched in November of 2013 as one of the state’s six original online casino venues.

Within the dense 53-page financial disclosure, Paddy Power / Betfair attributed a strong performance by the company’s US division largely to Betfair Casino New Jersey, which recorded revenue growth of 39 percent last year.

Breon Corcoran, who serves as chief executive officer of Paddy Power / Betfair, broke the US division numbers down while speaking to investors during an earnings presentation:

“US division revenue in local currency increased by 13 percent and operating profit increased by 9 percent.

These results include … Betfair Casino New Jersey, where revenue increased by 39 percent. The casino is now operating at breakeven earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) after a couple of years of startup losses.”

Overall, Paddy Power / Betfair’s global operations tallied revenue of £1.55 billion ($ 1.9 billion), good for an 18 percent rate of growth, along with a 35 percent rise in EBITDA.

The company’s New Jersey operation is linked to the brick and mortar Golden Nugget casino resort in Atlantic City. The venue serves as the license holder for Betfair Casino New Jersey, along with its own Golden Nugget branded online casino, and a third platform known as PlaySugarHouse Casino.

Based on previous disclosures by Paddy Power / Betfair, the Betfair Casino New Jersey platform accounts for approximately 35 percent of the Golden Nugget’s total iGaming revenue.

Combing through the monthly revenue reports released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), the steady pace of growth enjoyed by Golden Nugget’s collection of licensees is quite clear.

After beginning 2016 with just over $ 2.5 million in monthly revenue over January, the group increased that figure to just under $ 4.8 million by December – good for an increase of 92 percent over the 12-month span.

The table below shows all monthly revenue totals reported by Golden Nugget’s licensees throughout 2016:

January $ 2,505,664
February $ 3,118,809
March $ 3,070,087
April $ 3,305,283
May $ 3,200,067
June $ 3,533,457
July $ 3,706,991
August $ 3,469,206
September $ 3,659,348
October $ 4,088,225
November $ 3,802,276
December $ 4,790,418
Total $ 42,249,831

Making the site’s performance even more impressive, Betfair Casino New Jersey, and the other Gold Nugget licensees for that matter, lack the online poker component that competitors like Borgata and Caesars rely on.

Historically, the state’s fledgling iGaming marketplace has been dominated by the alliance between Borgata – Atlantic City’s major casino resort – and PartyPoker. In May of last year, the partnership held 24 percent market share to lead New Jersey’s five operating groups, while Golden Nugget and Betfair sat in fourth place with 19 percent.

But by January of this year the tide had turned significantly, with Golden Nugget holding 22 percent market share – 12 percent of which came from Betfair Casino New Jersey – to outpace Borgata / PartyPoker at 21 percent.

That month saw Golden Nugget and Betfair dominate the monthly revenue counts with a $ 4,776,218 total gaming win. Even combining casino and poker play, rivals like Caesars / 888 ($ 4,032,263) and Borgata / PartyPoker ($ 3,767,853) were badly outperformed.

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New Jersey Congressmen Introduce Bills to Explore Federal Sports Betting Legalization

New Jersey Congressmen Introduce Bills to Explore Federal Sports Betting Legalization

With a new presidential administration in place, including a chief executive in Donald Trump who previously owned casino enterprises, the political winds appear to have shifted in favor of legalized sports betting.

And following the introduction of two bills by U.S. Congressmen Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone, Jr. – both representatives of the state of New Jersey – on February 1, those efforts have intensified twofold.

A Democrat, Pallone has served the Garden State’s sixth district since 1988, and in nearly two decades he has had plenty of time to study the divide between New Jersey and the federal government over sports betting legalization.

His bill, officially known as H.R.784 – New Jersey Betting and Equal Treatment Act of 2017, seeks to exempt New Jersey from the current federal prohibition on sports betting. That law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992, banned sports wagering services in all but four U.S. states: Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.

As Pallone stated in a press release, issued in conjunction with LoBiondo,

“Sports-betting is already happening across our state and across the country, but instead of being appropriately overseen and raising needed revenue for our casinos, racetracks, businesses, and the state, these bets are placed through illegal enterprises.

It is time to bring this activity out of the shadows. I am pleased to join Congressman LoBiondo in reintroducing these commonsense bills that would level the playing field and give New Jersey’s citizens the opportunity to share in the profits from sports betting.”

New Jersey is currently embroiled in a legal battle to overturn PAPSA. The basis for that effort is a pair of high-profile lawsuits, which were filed after the state’s 2011 referendum approving a statewide sports betting industry was shot down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In effect, Pallone’s bill is an effort to bypass the expected Supreme Court decision on the matter altogether, by securing Congressional approval to add New Jersey to the list of four PAPSA-exempted states.

As for LoBiondo, a Democrat serving the state’s second district since 1995, his bill is officially known as H.R.783 – Sports Gaming Opportunity Act of 2017.

This bill seeks to create a four-year window of opportunity, during which time any state in the union may proceed with their own attempts at sports betting legalization.

With states like Michigan, Mississippi, New York, and Pennsylvania currently considering their own sports betting bills, LoBiondo’s efforts are designed to demonstrate that New Jersey is not alone in opposing PAPSA.

LoBiondo outlined his motivations for collaborating with his fellow Congressman, including revitalizing Atlantic City’s moribund gambling industry, in the joint statement:

“Each year competition from neighboring states and the proliferation of off-the-books betting grows, leaving Atlantic City’s gaming operations at a disadvantage. I strongly believe that sports-betting can help give our famed resort town a hand up, providing yet another unique option for patrons in addition to the quality entertainment, dining, shopping and beaches.

I’m pleased Congressman Pallone, our casinos, local elected officials and an overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents agree. Over the years we have made progress on bringing sports-betting to our state and I hope that a bipartisan coalition in Congress can come together in support of legalizing and regulating sports-betting.”

This is not the first time Pallone and LoBiondo have worked together to introduce sports betting expansion within the Congress, as each put forth nearly identical bills in 2015. Many factors have changed since then, however, including several major sports leagues reversing their long-held opposition to legalization.

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