Along with Nevada and Delaware, New Jersey remains the only other state to have passed any legalization for online gaming. After Black Friday shut everybody down on April 15, 2011, less than 2 years later, Bill 2578 was signed in February of 2013 making Internet gambling, and poker legal again.
Revenue was estimated to bring in a billion dollars in just its first year, but this proved to be setting the bar way too high as only excess of $100 million was generated. Well over half of that was obtained through online casinos and not online poker.
Even though expectations had fallen overwhelmingly short, this was still substantial progression made on the long road back to getting Internet poker legalized across the states. With New Jersey’s population of 9 million, more than double of Nevada’s and Delaware’s combined, it still remains as the most exciting of the 3 states to keep an eye on as Internet poker progresses.
After Bill 2578 came through, New Jersey wasted no time in getting Internet poker action back in rhythm. Inside of one year 6 sites were opened. Caesar’s and Bally’s of Atlantic City were each associated with 888 Poker. The Tropicana teamed up with the Gamesys Group, The Borgata with Bwin.party Digital Enterinament, Trump Plaza with Betfair, and Trump Taj Mahal was also part of Ultimate Poker, the first Nevada poker site to revive online poker.
The first 5 sites mentioned are still in operation, however, Ultimate Poker came and went, shutting down around the summer time of 2014.
PokerStars returned to the Internet ring in America in March of 2016. Linked with Atlantic City’s Resorts Hotel and Casino, it led to speculation this could be the turning point for Internet poker in America. So far that has not been the case, as those only in New Jersey are permitted to play. The speculation was more of just wishful thinking. No one was particularly surprised the limitations were held within New Jersey boundaries. More like praying to wake up and find out Black Friday was all a dream and everything was the way it has always been.
Back when everything was falling apart, PokerStars paid a billion dollars in fines to the Department of Justice.
It has been speculated that the supposed fine they paid functioned more like a bribe, making it more feasible for PokerStars to get back into the Internet poker market down the road. If that was the case, you can’t fault the thinking. No one believed once Internet poker was taken away that Americans would not fight tooth and nail until the end of time to get their poker back. One could figure sooner or later something would get done. When it does, the printing of money for the Internet sites would resume, and PokerStars would be anxious to get in on it. If they still had a less than cozy relationship with the Department of Justice, you can forget about them even being considered being allowed to make another penny. So, if the billion dollars was a bribe, you can simply file it under spending money to make money as PokerStars will surely recover that billion and plenty more.
If you never played poker in your life and then woke up tomorrow and decided you wanted to learn to play poker online, you might figure it is great to know there are 6 operating sites you can play on. Everyone has their specific likes and dislikes when it comes to playing any type of video or computer game. Having that many to choose from, it would be hard to imagine you never come across one you like. But then again, the online poker player pool in New Jersey is not enormous. The fact that it generated so much less revenue than expected in its first year clearly indicated this wasn’t going to the tremendous takeoff people were anticipating. All of this means is that you have a lot of sites accommodating a relatively small group of people.
Keeping poker games going around the clock requires the games be good. The more players there are in a poker room, the more likelihood that a good game comes together. The fewer sites there are, then the less heavily populated each poker room will be. Set up the way it is, you have to work a little harder and/or get a little luckier just to find a good game. Maybe you already opened an account with 2 sites, but maybe the good games happen to be one of the other four sites you still haven’t signed up with, and maybe you don’t feel like doing that. If there are too many options for the same thing, this creates the potential for everybody to keep the other from staying in business and everybody winds up with nothing.
If a bar opened on a modestly populated street, everyone walking on it knows where to go for a drink, so that’s where they will go. What if there were 6 bars on this modestly populated street? Obviously the likelihood of everyone staying in business is going way down along with the average crowd size per each establishment. Drinking and playing poker are two things that often depend on the company of enough people to take place. If you knew every bar is going to have a relatively small crowd, you might just go home. Whereas if the only one or two bars around were always jumping, you might feel more inclined to stop in. But what does the state of New Jersey care? As they collect that much more money for licensing fees.
Getting money on and off Internet poker has always been an eyebrow raiser, and it was a big obstacle for New Jersey in the early going. Many would be participants couldn’t even log in, never mind deposit money. Often times they were rejected being on the border of New Jersey, as the faulty geolocation software believed them to be located in either New York or Pennsylvania. Even if you were accepted, players trying to deposit making credit card payments with Visa or MasterCard were also turned down at a high frequency. This undoubtedly would, and did put heavy delays on getting people to sign up.
We are still in the baby steps of getting Internet poker restored to America. New Jersey, while it has been very outspoken and assertive in keeping this process moving, can really go either way. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them take off and a make a ton of money over the next bunch of years, especially now that they have PokerStars in their corner. But given how much resistance the government has and still is constantly giving Internet poker, it seems equally likely that things will just stay where they are or maybe even regress. Only time will tell.