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Gambling in New Jersey was very popular in the earlier days of the state, so much so that revenues from it were used to finance major projects such as Rutgers and Princeton universities, and even the state’s role in the American Revolution. Resistance to it built up to the point though that a referendum was passed in 1897 amending the state’s constitution to ban gambling (1).
This amendment also required any changes that would later permit certain types of gambling to be put to a vote to further amend the constitution. So in the 1970‘s when state legislators were looking to legalize gambling, they had to take it to the people. The first referendum failed, although the second one two years later in 1976 did pass, allowing casino gambling but limiting it to licensed casinos in Atlantic City. (2).
As poker gained in popularity, several Atlantic City casinos added poker rooms, which up until the passage of the bill regulating online gambling was the only legal form permitted in the state. There was some question as to whether another referendum would be needed but in the end it was decided that this fit under the umbrella of the original one permitting Atlantic City gambling due to the servers taking the bets being located there (3).
New Jersey’s Online Gambling Bill
In January 2011, a bill was proposed to allow for online gambling in New Jersey, provided that the servers were located in Atlantic City, and that the online gambling be restricted to those over 21 physically located in the state (4).
This bill ended up being passed but was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie, primarily out of concerns that it would allow establishments other than licensed Atlantic City casinos to become gambling hubs, and he also wanted to see the tax rate increased on this online action from the normal 8% assessed on the casino’s land based revenue to 15% for online revenue.
The requested changes were made, and on February 26, 2013, the bill was signed into law (5). The new bill approved the taking of online bets by established Atlantic City casinos for a 10 year period, after which a further bill must be passed to extend things. Any games permitted by the casinos at their physical locations are permitted to be wagered at online, including online poker. It also allows for the possibility of entering into compacts with other states to allow their residents to participate as well.
New Jersey Online Poker & Casinos
In the two years that passed between the introduction of the original bill and the passing of the second, the casinos prepared to roll this all out, including several teaming up with already established poker sites in other countries to help them set up and manage their online poker rooms.
The Borgata entered into a partnership with Party Poker, Caesars teamed up with 888, the Trump Plaza enlisted the help of Betfair, and the Golden Nugget becoming involved with Ongame. The Tropicana entered into an agreement with Virgin for branding rights as well to look to add a little flair and name recognition. Caesar’s also used their ownership of the WSOP brand to help promote their poker room.
Of the 11 Atlantic City casinos, 7 of them have gotten involved in the online gambling scene so far, with all either having one or more online poker rooms or planning on adding one soon. The New Jersey online poker market is still in its infancy, and while revenues have fallen short of some people’s expectations, it has done pretty well so far and much better than regulated poker in the other 2 states. The amount of legal NJ online casinos here has also proven very profitable, as revenue has increased in the last few months for both live and online gaming operators.
New Jersey’s Online Poker Rooms At A Glance
Party Borgata: The Borgata has two poker rooms on the same network, called Party Borgata, which can be accessed at either the Borgata site or the Party Site, and has been the leader in online poker in New Jersey. The Borgata has the largest brick and mortar poker room in the state and they certainly have the biggest online poker room as well. This is where you will find the most action.
WSOP: Caesar’s owns and operates the World Series of Poker and they have named their flagship poker room after it. They are only slightly behind Party Borgata in terms of overall traffic and are a major player in this state, and well worth checking out as well.
All American Network: This network is only about half as popular as the top two, but still gets a decent amount of traffic. They have experienced a lull lately and saw many of their players leave for other sites but better promotion may bring things back up again. The main site is 888 Poker.
**Ultimate Poker**: This site has been a real disappointment so far and hardly anyone plays there. It’s not that the site is bad, it is just that they need to work a lot harder to promote it enough to get some positive momentum going.
**UPDATE: this site has officially been SHUT DOWN.**
Ongame New Jersey: This poker site has yet to get off the ground at this time although it will be rolled out soon. We’ll have to see how well they end up doing.
New Jersey is the largest state so far to regulate online poker and online poker players in the state have certainly welcomed it, although in not near as big a number as some politicians predicted.
Things have gone pretty well though and although the growth has leveled off for now, being able to play at a completely legal site and especially having a full array of easy banking options is certainly pretty exciting. If you are fortunate enough to be located in New Jersey a whole new world of poker has opened up.
(1) Red Bank Register, September 22, 1897.
(2) Red Bank Register, November 3, 1976.
(3) Press of Atlantic City, July 17, 2012.
(4) New Jersey State Legislature Bill 490.
(5) Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 2013.