It seems the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJ DGE) and the Attorney General’s office have gotten their message across loud and clear; there is no place in New Jersey for unlicensed online poker providers.

After sending out Cease and Desist letters to several affiliates who were advertising both licensed and unlicensed operators in New Jersey (and one can only assume to the operators themselves) the New Jersey online poker market has essentially shed itself of all unlicensed providers following the announcement from Bovada / Bodog on Thursday that was first reported at CardsChat.com. According to the statement from Bovada they will no longer accept new players from New Jersey.

“Our partner brand Bovada.lv has chosen to stop new account registrations for residents of the state of New Jersey. Existing account holders will not be affected. This is a decision they have taken of their own volition and they hope that their existing customers continue to enjoy all of the products and services Bovada.lv has to offer.”

This is huge news as Bovada is the largest unlicensed provider in the United States.

Unfortunately for licensed providers, Bovada is only restricting new players and will continued to serve their existing player base in New Jersey, which is both good and bad at the same time.

It’s good because players who are looking to join an online poker room will no longer have the option to play at Bovada (which was a very appealing option due to their larger player base), but bad because Bovada’s considerable player base can stay put right where they are and keep on keeping on.

Who has left?

So let’s take a look at the scoreboard shall we?

Merge Gaming Network… gone.

Winning Poker Network… gone.

Equity Poker Network… gone.

And as of Thursday, Bovada… gone.

Merge was the first network to abandon ship, doing so back in January, and their early exit might indicate that they left for different reasons than the other three providers, who all left in a relatively short period of time over the past two weeks.

So, while Equity, Winning and Bovada have likely left/reduced their footprint in New Jersey due to mounting pressure from the NJ DGE, Merge Gaming may have left for an altogether different reason (hefty payment processing fees or some other operational cost) or perhaps they simply decided to get out in front of the impending storm.

Why Bovada matters

The interesting thing about Bovada’s departure is that they were THE online poker room du jour for US players. So while the licensed industry in New Jersey could claim a victory in forcing Winning, Merge and Equity to leave the market, the real winner in those cases was Bovada as they stood to gain the majority of the newly exiled players.

Now that Bovada has also been eliminated from the list of potential destinations for these wayward online poker players (and any future registrants) they are left with little choice but to join one of the regulated online poker rooms in the state – it’s either that or the little-known and rather small Chico Poker Network, a network that gives me flashbacks to the original Bad News Bears and their uniform sponsor, Chico’s Bail Bonds.

How has New Jersey done it?

The bigger question is how has New Jersey been able to eliminate all illegal offshore online poker rooms from its state when the federal government has failed so miserably at this task?

The answer: New Jersey now has interests to protect and also has some very clear laws that can be used to bring legal actions against violators.

With the absence of unlicensed providers, the licensed online poker rooms have one less thing to worry about, and can now focus on other issues stunting their growth such as payment processing, geolocation, buggy software, and a general lack of awareness.

We won’t have to wait long to see the effect of this exodus from New Jersey, and where these players will land. So keep an eye on PokerScout.com’s traffic rankings in the coming days and weeks.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve is a seasoned veteran of the online gambling industry, having written about it from every possible angle in his many years as a freelance gaming writer. Based in Massachusetts, Steve especially focuses on regulatory and legislative news coverage pertaining to the U.S. market.