Legal New Jersey Gambling Laws

New Jersey has rocked the country with recent changes to its gambling laws, as along with Nevada and Delaware it becomes one of three states to explicitly legislate for intra-state online gambling. New Jersey has gone further than Nevada, legalizing not only online poker but all manner of online casino games. The legal complications are still multiplying, but it looks as if online gaming in the state will be up and running within months, with a provisional date set at the 23rd of November 2013.

The state has always been something of an epicenter for gambling in the US, with Atlantic City almost as synonymous with casino culture as its Nevadan cousin Las Vegas. Gambling does of course exist in the state outside of AC, notably there are horse racecourses, the state lottery and social gambling is also tolerated within certain state-imposed limits, as is charity gambling. But it’s the playground of America Atlantic City itself which boasts the casinos in numbers, and it’s these casinos which will be allowed to apply for the online gaming licenses.

Atlantic City has spawned a number of the absolute best poker players in the world, including Phil Ivey, who famously learned the ropes in the poker rooms of the city. Cash game legend Tom Dwan also hails from New Jersey, as does David Sklansky, one of the foremost experts in the world in both poker and game theory.

The Letter of the Law      

All attention has been turned to these very recent changes in the law regarding online gambling, and the shockwaves these have sent across the state and beyond, but of course there is an existing body of legislation upon which these changes have been built.

As with many a state, New Jersey has some essential laws prohibiting any unregulated gambling which occurs outside of specific exemptions in statute. Of offenders charged for violating statute, those promoting and providing games are subject to far more serious charges than mere player participants. Any wagering game which includes a material element of chance is deemed to be gambling, and this casino state does of course have some serious business interests in punishing any violations of gambling law.

Being merely a player participant qualifies as an affirmative defense against the majority of gambling charges, and the following passage legally defining a player is often regarded as essentially acknowledging an exemption for un-raked social home games;

A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein does not thereby render material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of such game if he performs, without fee or remuneration, acts directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game, such as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor or supplying cards or other equipment used therein”.

The state runs a lottery and pari-mutuel wagering at racetracks as well as charity gambling of various sorts, provided that all games take place within the remit defined by the law. In the case of charity gambling, licenses must be obtained in advance.

If you’d like to read further into the intricacies of the general gambling laws in New Jersey, including the scale of the penalties, which can be pretty severe in the state, Gambling Law US [1] has a pretty comprehensive guide to the foundational statutes (although nothing as yet on the new changes), and the New Jersey Legislature [2] of course has all the original documents available to view.

Legal Online Gambling in New Jersey

The casino industry in New Jersey has been struggling as regards revenue in recent years, but that hasn’t prevented every single land-based casino in Atlantic City from applying for a license to run online gambling. All of this has of course occurred in the wake of the governor signing major changes governing online intra-state gambling into law [3]. The treasury has stated that it expects the new law to bring with it a doubling of casino revenues, with some predicting increases up to two times greater than this.

The law also leaves room for inter-state contracts with other states which might possess similar regulations, a clause which would potentially allow larger player pools to be created in player vs. player games such as poker.

According to an August 2013 report by NJ.com [4] , thirty-seven companies are applying for online gambling licenses in New Jersey, although only twelve land-based casinos actually exist there. Most of these thirty-seven have agreements in place to partner with a physical casino, as required by the new legislation.

Expectation is that gambling will kick off online in late November 2013, but it’s not yet for absolutely certain that it will start off on time without any hitch, and some legal wrinkles remain to be ironed out.

What Forms of Gambling is Legal in New Jersey?

New Jersey has run a lottery since 1970, and proceeds from the sale of tickets [5] constitute the fourth biggest source of revenue to the state, hence their slogan “our real winners don’t need tickets”.

If it’s horseracing you’re after, the state has three fine tracks, with the local tourism board offering a guide here [6]. If you’d rather go straight to the best known of the state’s racecourses, Monmouth Park is right here.

Charity gaming is allowed and licenses issued for this, and a fairly lively local scene is supported by this legislation. Social home games appear to have an implied exemption in the law, so long as no host or house takes any consideration, including that derived from selling beverages or other goods to players.

If you want a taste of the real action in Atlantic City of course, the casinos are the place to be.

New Jersey's Legal Casino and Poker Games

Atlantic City is host to a full dozen casinos, far too many to detail in this quick guide, however no lesser publication than the illustrious Time Out [7] has a splendid guide to ten of them.

The Borgata is far and away the top choice for poker players in AC at the current time, with a fine spread of cash games and a decent weekly tournament series [8] with most buy-ins pitched somewhere between $100 and $300. 

For more on the poker action in AC, Casino and Poker Info have a handy city map guide, and both The Poker Atlas and Cardplayer run their own pretty comprehensive listings of all the regular tournament action going down. While the Borgata has the best of it, there’s a decent range of events running across a half dozen or so resorts. With almost 100 pages of action, the Atlantic City regional thread on Twoplustwo [9] sees some frequent activity and is a useful “real-time” guide to the city’s poker action.

Some casinos have been known to host less than usual gambling contests in Atlantic City, such as the Trump Taj Mahal $200k in the sand promotion [10] which took place in June 2013, where participants were armed with numbered shovels and sent to dig on the beachfront in numbered squares, collecting a total of $200k in buried (token) prize money, with prizes varying from $1,000 to $100k. One suspects that for all the novelty, it was still another –EV wager, just one that breaks your back slightly at the same time as costing you equity.

Recent Developments in New Jersey's Attempt to Regulate Online Gambling

Alongside online gambling, New Jersey has also been pushing for legal sports gambling, wishing to join Nevada in being allowed to run such betting operations. In fact the state has launched a federal case [11] on this very matter. Debate rages between advocates of legal sports betting and a coalition representing several major sports organizations. Many in the sports world argue that legalised US sports betting would hurt the industry and breed suspicion of, and indeed actual cases of results fixing.

The Governor Chris Christie’s latest comments suggest quiet confidence, “I think that New Jersey will be victorious ultimately”.

All accounts give the impression that New Jersey is still set to go live on online gambling in late November, echoed in many industry posts. Speculation is rife as to whether, and by how much New Jersey will outstrip Nevada in terms of revenue from online gambling, with both states going live in the same year, although Nevada action is currently restricted to poker.

The two states’ legal amendments for intra-state poker both give room for inter-state compacts between similarly-minded state legislations, and New Jersey and Nevada are already looking towards merging player pools for online poker.

Busts and Arrests

The gambling bust stories that really hit the headlines in Atlantic City tend to be pretty major, with several big raids on illegal gambling operations over recent years.

In 2009 the Borgata high stakes poker room was rocked by scandal, with 18 arrests made and the Mafia implicated in a raid on sports betting activity taking place there. The bust was one of the most significant mob-related gambling cases in the city’s history.

Two New Jersey bookie brothers were amongst those arrested in October 2012 as part of a federal case against numerous individuals working for a sports betting operation which allegedly took in over $50 million a year. The brothers are charged with corruption, money laundering, promotion of gambling and conspiracy. Twenty-five were arrested across five states in an operation named “Worldwide Wagers” according to coverage from The Trentonian [12].

The most recent major bust faced by Atlantic City is the case of Operation Shore Bet, which closed down a gambling ring which was netting $1 million every week, according to this account from NJ.com [13]. 22 have been arrested and over $500,000 and two cars have been seized in the investigation.

Summary

If you’re in New Jersey for a gamble, you’re most likely heading down to Atlantic City. Numerous guides exist to this city’s extensive casino industry, including several linked to above. The city boasts twelve casinos with plenty of action including some impressive card rooms.

The rest of the state has racecourses, social gaming, charitable gambling and the state lottery, but there’s really nowhere that comes close to AC, which ranks alongside the best cities in the country when it comes to gambling.

Not only that, but as most people not living under rocks already know by now, New Jersey is poised to bring online intra-state (and possible inter-state) gambling to life, with almost two score companies vying for licenses attached to partnerships with the dozen land-based casinos in Atlantic City.

Less well known, and slightly less ground-shaking albeit still significant, are New Jersey’s efforts to bring legal sports betting to the state. In attempts to follow Nevada’s lead, New Jersey is making a federal case of the matter. It remains to be seen whether the state will be allowed to run such wagering, but the Governor is confident that given Nevada’s precedent, prospects are good.

All in all, if you’re in Atlantic City, you’re not going to be short of a game. Just try to hold on to your coat.

Sources for this article

  1. GamblingLawUS.com: New Jersey
  2. New Jersey Legislature
  3. NJ.com: Gov. Christie signs internet gambling into law
  4. NJ.com: With N.J. poised to allow online gambling, internet betting industry flocks to Atlantic City
  5. New Jersey Lottery Benefits Education and Institutions
  6. VisitNJ.org: Horse Racing in the Garden State
  7. Timeout.com: Atlantic City casino guide: Ten great places to play
  8. TheBorgata.com: Borgata's Daily Poker Tournaments
  9. TwoPlusTwo.com: Atlantic City General Discussion
  10. 500Nations.com: $200,000 Promotion at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort
  11. NBCNews.com: New Jersey wages federal court battle to allow gambling on sports
  12. Trentonian.com: Bookie brothers from NJ among those busted in gambling probe
  13. NJ.com: Operation 'Shore Bet' disrupts sophisticated gambling enterprise, authorities say