New Jersey Online Gaming Comes of Age
It’s been seven years since online gaming launched in New Jersey, making it the center of the iGaming universe. Regulator David Rebuck (l.) has guided the industry, now recognized as the gold standard for the business.
They say when you reach seven years of age you’ve attained the age of reason. Until then, you can be a wild animal, with no sense of right and wrong and not a care in the world. Suddenly, when you come of age, you’re totally responsible.
This could have described online gaming had it gone off the tracks in its early years. It didn’t happen. November marks the seventh anniversary of iGaming in New Jersey, the first state to introduce a significant industry, with no major issues to report.
In the Beginning
Seven years ago, no one knew what iGaming would do in New Jersey, particularly state regulators. The state Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) initially consulted with European jurisdictions, but there was no clear pathway in the U.S., given the differing levels of regulation. The DGE was licensing companies that had operated for years in Europe, and rejected some because of the tougher regulations in New Jersey.
There were lots of technical hurdles to overcome during the early years, and most of them had to be resolved immediately upon legalization in November 2013. One of the requirements was that players had to be within the borders of the state to play, and who knew if geolocation was going to work? After all, there were massive population centers on both sides of the state, including New York City and Philadelphia, separated from Jersey by relatively narrow rivers. Could operators really pinpoint where players were located?
Turns out they could. While there were some cases of bets being accepted from out of state, the vast majority of illegal attempts were intercepted.
Then online gaming opponents warned that children would get hold of daddy’s credit card and play casino games. Well, that also turned out to be a fallacy, as stringent ID verification prevented that outcome.
In the beginning, it was also very hard for online gamblers to deposit or withdraw money. Over the last seven years, the industry has added more options, but this is still the Achilles heel of online gaming. Non-techie types often have difficulties setting up an online wallet, depositing from their bank accounts, using an ACH check, or even using PayPal.
Sometimes none of these methods work, and no one can explain why. Usually, it comes down to the federal government, which still has laws on the books that prohibit online gaming. Though iGaming may be perfectly legal within a state, some banks and financial institutions err on the side of caution and won’t process those transactions. But the frustrated user never hears that explanation.
The customer service reps at online casinos can help, but probably the best way around tech deficiencies is to use the option Pay Near Me. Go to your nearest 7-11 and physically give them cash to deposit into your online account. Of course, 7-11 takes a rather usurious fee for this service, so it’s not always the best option.
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And what about those “skins?” And I don’t mean the Washington Football Team. Skins are brands that exist under the umbrella of an existing casino’s license and sometimes overshadow the existing casino. In New Jersey, DraftKings is included under the Resorts Atlantic City license. The DraftKings physical sportsbook in Resorts is very nice, but the app blows away any other app in the state in terms of revenue. Golden Nugget has been the leader in New Jersey because of how judiciously it allocates its skins, which include SugarHouse (Rivers), Betfair and others. All those skins are subject to the same licensing conditions as real-life casinos in Atlantic City.
When new states are considering legalizing and regulating online gaming, their first stop is the DGE offices in Atlantic City. DGE Director David Rebuck, who’s been there for all of those seven years and more, explains what’s important to regulators, why transparency gives the public faith in the integrity of the games, and what to look for when doing investigations on international companies.
In the Future
Is the New Jersey market saturated with operators? When there are more than 25 online gaming sites, the answer would have to be yes. But those operators are getting valuable experience that will benefit subsequent states that legalize iGaming.
Have there been rough spots over the past seven years? Of course. Blazing a trail sometimes takes you on a somewhat circuitous route. But eventually, New Jersey found the right path. States considering legalizing iGaming would be wise to fall in behind the gold standard that this state has created.