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New Jersey Customers Kicked Off BetOnline & Sportsbetting Websites

NJ Outline Map

The climate for online gambling in the United States has just taken a small turn for the worse with the decision by BetOnline and Sportsbetting.ag to stop serving the State of New Jersey. These two operators, on the Chico Poker Network (CPN), had been among the most popular in the Garden State not just as online poker sites but also with respect to their sports betting and casino products as well. TigerGaming, which is also a part of the Chico Network, had already considered NJ a prohibited jurisdiction because it does not transact in the United States at all, so there's no change in its status.

BetOnline and Sportsbetting.ag Block NJ

A Message to Customers

Page With Blue Words

BetOnline and Sportsbetting.ag sent messages to their affected clients informing them of the change in policy. However, rather than giving them several days' or weeks' notice, as is typical in these kinds of situations, these users were only told about it on Monday, Aug. 26: the same day that their accounts became restricted.

Here's the email that was sent out:

SB.ag Email to New JerseyitesCopy of the Message Sent to NJ Residents

Despite the fact that the Chico Network is a reputable operator, which pays out winnings on time, we've often found the timeliness of their communications to be a problem area. Not only do their websites often contain outdated information, but management is often slow to inform affiliates of their plans and upcoming promotions too. Customers are sometimes given the runaround by support staff, with different employees telling them conflicting things, although the opening of a BetOnline sponsored forum on Twoplustwo a couple of months ago appears to be helping somewhat.

The latest email to New Jerseyites is a prime example of this inadequacy. People who were really putting in the volume at the tables will now be out of action for some time while they seek out a new poker home. This could have been avoided had the network head honchos possessed the solicitude to let users know what was happening even just a couple of weeks ahead of time.

Part of a Broader Trend

Downward Sloping Chart

Though the banning of New Jersey users may well be the most noteworthy news to come out of the Chico Poker Network in the past month or so, management has actually decided to add several other parts of the world to the prohibited list too. Prior to this, the only areas from which the CPN chose not to do business were:

Australia, France, Malta, Panama

The new list of restricted jurisdictions is:

Australia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, France, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, ISIL (Da'esh), Al-Qaida and the Taliban, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Malta, New Jersey, North Korea, Panama, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen

Most of these areas are notable for being enmeshed in wars, civil disorder, terrorism, and/or financial instability. Others, like France, Australia and Malta, are well-recognized as having strong anti-offshore gaming enforcers. It would appear that New Jersey falls into this latter category especially given the prominence, in recent years, of the state's Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

Banned Jurisdictions at Chico Poker NetworkNew Jersey and Its Peers Around the World?

More About the Division of Gaming Enforcement

The Division of Gaming Enforcement is the regulatory body tasked with overseeing New Jersey's gambling operators. It has jurisdiction over land-based casinos and racetracks as well as the state's burgeoning legalized online gaming scene. Though there's a Casino Control Commission that theoretically stands above the DGE, the day-to-day job of regulating the industry is, for all intents and purposes, in the hands of the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

NJ Division of Gaming EnforcementThe New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Is a Part of the Office of the Attorney General

The DGE is led by a director who is appointed by the governor. The current director is David L. Rebuck.

DGE's Philosophy

Silhouette of Man's Head

Not only does the DGE concern itself with what licensed casinos and betting providers are doing in the state, but it has increasingly focused its attention on the activities of unlicensed firms as well. There are quite a few offshore internet gambling organizations that are only too happy to transact with NJ residents notwithstanding the fact that the authorities consider these services to be illegal.

The DGE would rather see the state's citizens betting at fully licensed sites. Not only does the Division claim that consumers are better protected at duly licensed gaming providers, but it also probably has its eyes on the tax revenue derived from state-approved online gaming. Needless to say, international websites that happily ignore New Jersey's gambling statutes have no interest in paying these taxes, and there's really nothing that can be done to compel them to do so.

Director Rebuck outlined the DGE's position in a hearing before the New Jersey Assembly's Committee on Tourism, Gaming and the Arts on Sept. 13, 2018:

The illegal gaming market in the United States right now is controlled by offshore and foreign internet illegal gambling operations. We've been researching this with our law enforcement partners to get a better understanding how they operate in the United States. They're extremely robust…

…Any of your children, they want to go online tonight, I guarantee you they can open an account and create an account at an illegal website within minutes. It's right in your face. So they're not hiding in the backrooms. They're not hiding in the shelter of a, you know – they're right in front of you…

And they're not going to go away. Why would you? They think they're hidden; they think they're protected. And they've been very successful for many, many years. So we have a challenge there before us that's not an easy one just for the State of New Jersey to deal with, but we are impacted now as much as anybody because our systems are up and running.

David RebuckDavid L. Rebuck, Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement

DGE's Strategy

Globe

As Rebuck has noted himself in previous interviews and speeches, the powers of the Division of Gaming Enforcement when attempting to tackle offshore gaming are quite limited. There's no real ability to take offenders to court or levy fines because they're located in jurisdictions that, frankly, don't give a damn about New Jersey's strict rules.

However, we must remember that, like Mafiosi or international bankers, government bureaucrats the world over share certain common interests and are willing to work with each other to achieve them. The DGE has been quite active in liaising with its counterparts in other regulated markets.

For instance, the Australian Communications and Media Authority was granted expanded powers to crack down on offshore gambling under the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill. It sent the DGE a letter in September 2017 informing the Division of the new situation in Australia, and NJ Gaming Enforcement replied saying that all gaming sites licensed by New Jersey would be prohibited from offering their services in Australia.

This lovefest wasn't all one-sided either. In a report from October 2018, the ACMA singled out the Division of Gaming Enforcement as one of the “overseas gambling regulators” from which it had received “significant support.”

Australian Communications and Media AuthorityThe DGE Often Works Closely With Regulators in Other Countries, like Australia's ACMA

Zealous Crackdown

Hammer

The DGE has been more effective than many could have predicted in driving unregulated interactive gaming sites out of New Jersey.

For instance, the Division has had a long-running feud with Bovada, one of the leading poker rooms that offers its online games to residents of the United States. In 2014, Bovada elected to stop accepting New Jerseyans as new customers while still allowing existing NJ users to log in and play. Almost all observers believe that this step was the result of a letter sent to the company by the DGE.

Bovada LogoBovada Has Incurred the Especial Wrath of the DGE

Unsatisfied with this development, the DGE reached out to its counterparts in the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, the issuer of Bovada's gaming license. In September 2016, Kahnawake announced that it would no longer be licensing entities that accept U.S. customers unless those organizations were doing so legally according to the laws of a state.

That same month, the following press release appeared from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission:

Bovada Surrenders Kahnawake LicenseBovada Surrendered Its License Rather Than Cease to Do Business in the United States

That's right – it looks as though the DGE actually took the time to work behind the scenes and make life challenging specifically for Bovada and its sister companies, causing them to forfeit their licenses in order to continue operating in the United States.

Even mere affiliates of international betting providers have found themselves in the crosshairs. After issuing a warning bulletin in June 2015, the DGE has threatened affiliates who remained out of compliance and continued to advertise offshore brands.

It appears that New Jersey officials are principally targeting those affiliates who partner with both licensed and unlicensed enterprises, vowing to bar them from being able to represent NJ-approved sites if they continue to promote unauthorized gambling destinations too. This is what happened with OddsShark.com, which in February 2019 was prohibited from working with any NJ online gaming licensees.

The case of lcb.org is even more worrisome though. This affiliate received a warning from the DGE on March 1, 2019. This site doesn't deal directly with any licensed New Jersey gambling concerns. Rather, what caused it to fall under the microscope of the DGE was the fact that it detected users' geographical locations and – if they were from The Garden State – displayed a list of NJ-friendly offshore casinos.

This last instance demonstrates that the New Jersey gambling regulators are attempting to broaden their reach whenever possible.

Big Sports Betting Money at Stake

Money Bag

The appearance of legalized sports betting is another reason for New Jersey to ramp up its efforts in looking after its financial interests. It was New Jersey that was at the heart of the Murphy v. NCAA case in which the Supreme Court decided that the federal ban on sports betting was unconstitutional. Indeed, the “Murphy” referenced in the name of the case is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

SCOTUS Justices 2018Justices Who Opened the Door to New Sports Betting Enterprises With the Murphy v. NCAA Case

As one of the leaders in this particular battle, New Jersey was among the first states to implement sports betting regulations following the May 2018 decision from the nation's highest tribunal. Nevertheless, with licensed sportsbooks only having existed in the state for slightly more than a year, it makes sense that state leaders feel that a little bit of protectionism is in order.

BetOnline and Sportsbetting.ag are definitely full-fledged sportsbooks in addition to being poker sites. They allow customers to put down as much as $25,000 at a time on some sporting wagers, and even this relatively generous limit can be raised upon request. No doubt the DGE is alternately biting its fingernails and licking its lips in anticipation when contemplating whether this cash can be directed toward its own preferred, instate sportsbooks instead.

DGE Gonna REGULATE!

There Are Still Offshore Poker Options

Chips and Cards

Though their number has been whittled down a bit in the past few years, there are still a few offshore poker rooms that are willing to take the risk of transacting in the New Jersey market. And it is they who are running all the legal risks; individual players from the state are not subject to prosecution. To read up on these places for unlicensed NJ internet poker, check out our guide to playing online poker in the State of New Jersey.

If you reside elsewhere in the country, then our thorough, informative USA online poker overview will likely meet with your approval.

Comments

This is a pretty big blow for me as a considerable amount of my income has come from their mtts.

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