Over a year before Black Friday sent the then thriving U.S online poker market reeling, New Jersey government officials were already entertaining the idea of legalizing state regulated Internet gambling.
Fast forward more than three years later and Internet gambling, online poker included, is finally on the precipice of going live in the Garden State.
Last updated December 29th, 2013.
A brief timeline of how online poker legislation came to pass in NJ
2010 – The effort for online poker in NJ begins
- January 10, 2010: Senator Raymond Lesniak introduces the first bill that would legalize and regulate Internet gambling in New Jersey. Online poker is included among the real money table games that would be accessible on the net. The bill, entitled S 3167, would require that all computer equipment be located within an existing Atlantic City casino. Licensees would be required to pay a $200,000 licensing fee, a $100,000 annual renewal fee and be subjected to a 20% tax rate.
- March, 2010: A bill similar to Lesniak’s is introduced by Assemblyman John Burzichelli. New Jersey Assembly Bill 2570 would allow residents of New Jersey to wager on casino games and play online poker from their computer. The licensing requirements outlined in the bill mimic those proposed by Lesniak.
- November, 2010: Lesniak’s bill receives overwhelming support in the New Jersey Senate, passing by a 29-5 margin. It also marks the first time in the history of the United States that a bill calling for the regulation of online poker would win approval in a major legislative branch of government.
- December, 2010: The Assembly vote is held off until 2011 after an eleventh hour amendment is added.
2011 – Critical steps are taken, but progress remains elusive
- January 10, 2011: The New Jersey Assembly votes 63-11-3 in favor of the newly revised bill. It is also approved by the Senate (34-2).
- March, 2011: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoes Sen. Lesniak’s Internet gaming bill, citing concerns over the expansion of casino gambling outside of Atlantic City and other “legal hurdles” in his veto message. He calls for a voter’s referendum in November, 2011 to decide whether the expansion should be approved. Lesniak scoffs at this notion, remarking that Christie’s “political ambitions” may have factored into his decision.
- April 15, 2011: Black Friday occurs. Online poker giants Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars suspend real-money poker services in the United States, effective immediately. Several weeks later, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker’s parent company, Blanca Gaming of Antigua, files for bankruptcy.
- December 23, 2011: The United States Department of Justice changes its interpretation of the Wire Act, stating that events not related to sports betting fall outside of its scope. The ruling is deemed a victory by advocates of federally regulated online poker legislation, particularly the Poker Players Alliance.
2012 – The groundwork for online gambling NJ is finally laid
- January, 2012: In lieu of the recent ruling, Governor Christie seems to have a change of heart regarding Internet gaming. At a press conference he states, “I think New Jersey should be in that business.”
- Early 2012: In the aftermath of Black Friday Senator Lesniak begins working on new legislation – Senate Bill S1565 and its counterpart, Assembly Bill A2578. The new bills address many of Governor Christie’s concerns by providing penalties to Internet Cafes that advocate Internet gambling and strictly stating that all computer equipment and servers used to offer online gambling must be physically located in an Atlantic City-based casino.
- April 3, 2012: S1565, also sponsored by Senator James Whelan, is approved by the New Jersey Senate’s State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. Lesniak expresses optimism that the bill will be passed by the Senate on May 31, 2012, approximately one month before the New Jersey legislature begins its two-month recess.
- May 31, 2012: Lacking the votes to be addressed, Lesniak expresses doubt concerning Governor Christie’s willingness to approve S1565 before the fall.
- June 28, 2012: Delaware legalizes online poker one day after HB 333 passes through the Senate by a slim 14-6 margin.
- December 17, 2012: Bill A2578 is approved by the New Jersey assembly by a margin of 48-24. It would be voted upon by the Senate three days later.
- December 20, 2012: In what amounted to a landslide, the Senate passes A2578 by an overwhelming 33-3 margin.
2013 – Online gambling and poker become legal and regulated in NJ
- February 7, 2013: Governor Christie conditionally vetoes A2578, issuing concerns regarding gambling addiction and the amount of state tax revenue collected. Senator Lesniak issued a statement shortly thereafter, stating that the changes requested by Christie were “minor.”
- Mid-February, 2013: Several caveats of A2578 are altered in accordance with Governor Christie’s requests. Namely, the percentage of taxes collected from internet gambling revenues was raised from 10 to 15, and the law would expire after 10 years.
- February 26, 2013: The State Assembly passes the revised bill by a 68-5 margin, and the Senate passes the bill 35-1. Just a few hours later Governor Christie would sign the bill into law, making New Jersey the third state to pass Internet gambling legislation. The bill marked New Jersey’s largest gambling expansion since the state approved a referendum legalizing gambling in Atlantic City.
- April 17, 2013: Caesars Entertainment begins the process of applying for an Internet gaming license. Around the same time, the Rational Group – parent company of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars – completes an application to purchase the Atlantic City Club Casino.
- May 1, 2013: The deal between PokerStars and the Atlantic City Club Casino falls through after the initial terms expire.
- May, 2013: David Rosen tells Governor Christie that his annual Internet gambling revenue projections are inordinately high, in part due to PokerStars failed attempt to purchase the Atlantic Club.
- July 29, 2013: 37 companies apply for real-money gambling licenses in the state of New Jersey. 10 of the 12 casinos would have already found a partner. Most notably, The Rational Group partnered with Resorts Casino Club, the Borgata with bwin.party and Caesars with 888 Holdings.
- July 31, 2013: The New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement outlines several changes to its Internet gaming regulations.
- October 4, 2013: The DGE confirms that online gambling will officially be permitted within the state of New Jersey starting on November 26, 2013. A “soft launch” period of at least five days must be completed before real-money play can go live.
- November 20th, 2013: PokerStars releases a statement confirming they will not be part of the launch in New Jersey.
- November 21st, 2013: The “soft launch” trial period for online gambling in New Jersey starts. Over a dozen websites begin to offer limited Internet poker and casino games, include sites from Borgata, Caesars, Tropicana, Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal. The Golden Nugget is initially included on the launch list, but then is removed at the last minute.
- November 25th, 2013: New Jersey regulators announce that the soft launch period has completed successfully with no major issues and clear operators to begin offering unlimited online gambling to individuals located in New Jersey.
- November 30th, 2013: Players report significant problems with the geolocation and banking systems employed by regulated online gambling sites in NJ. Nevertheless, tens of thousands create accounts in the first week of play.
- December 4th, 2013: Totals released by regulators reveal that over 51,000 online gambling accounts have been created in NJ.
- December 13th, 2013: The DGE announces that they have effectively paused PokerStars’ license application.
- December 20th, 2013: The PartyPokerNJ / Borgata network jumps out to an early poker lead in the NJ market with roughly 50% market share.
- December 23rd, 2013: The number of total online gambling accounts created in NJ crosses the 100,000 threshold.