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Claire Levy

Claire Levy is a journalist, photographer, and gambling enthusiast. She writes for several New Jersey area publications. You can connect with and follow her on Google+ and Twitter.

About Claire Levy

Claire Levy is a journalist, photographer, and gambling enthusiast. She writes for several New Jersey area publications. You can connect with and follow her on Google+ and Twitter.

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Here are my most recent posts

New Jersey Gamblers Scoring Big Online Jackpots

April 15, 2014

No major jackpots over $75,000 occurred online in 2013 according to New Jersey Division of Gaming Jackpot Reports, but so far 2014 is showing an increase in online gaming slot Jackpots. As online gaming develops so do the amount of slot progressives as more and more people play online.  Many online gaming operators have reported winners hitting 5 figure jackpots since players have to fill out the appropriate paperwork for tax purposes with withdrawals over $10,000.

Borgatacasino.com is the Jackpot home

As the number of online accounts in New Jersey is approaching 250,000 the frequency of slot play on these sites is starting to produce some major payouts. The random number generators that decide the outcome of slot plays aren’t governed by time but they do produce more variables as play increases. According to the 2014 DGE reports 2014 DGE jackpot reports, three jackpots of over $75,000 have hit so far and all were at Borgatacasino.com, the leader in the online gaming market in New Jersey.

The Borgata online casino has secured 42% of the online market share to date so they are more likely to hit the bigger Jackpots and progressives. They also have IGT games in their online library that procured two of the three major jackpots so far. On March 2nd a Monopoly Level Up Plus $10.00 game hit for $84,300.Then on March 17th a player hit $80000 on a IGT Game King Double Double Bonus Poker $.01 game.

MonopolyPlus

The Big One

The biggest jackpot so far happened back on January 23rd for $153,638.75 to a 29 year old from Monmouth County NJ while he was visiting his parent’s house and all for $1.50. The jackpot was on BWIN themed slot called “going Nuts” and still holds the record.  “I was in utter shock!” The winner, who wishes to remain anonymous said. ”I could not believe what had just happened…I was just staring at the screen in awe.”  This is pretty much every parent’s dream that has grown kids that are just visiting.

Expect some big Jackpots in 2014

As online gaming continues to mature we are bound to see more significant jackpots. More slot games will be added to existing libraries. Slot progressives will mature and be ripe for a hit while someone is playing in their bedroom. The industry is being more accepted by the day and as the legitimacy is more accepted more play will continue to develop. More major slot jackpots will emerge soon and from more sites.

Is Internet Gaming Affecting New Jersey Land Casinos?

April 8, 2014

Is Internet Gaming Hurting the Atlantic City Casinos?

Internet gaming opened November 21, 2013 to mixed fanfare. The issue of whether internet gaming will be detrimental to Atlantic City is a hard nut to crack. It’s not something that can be easily isolated with statistics or figures. To further complicate the analysis is that the Atlantic Club Casino, despite its memorable comeback, ultimately fell prey to its poor debt structure in January. So with one less casino, it’s harder to tell where the marker is at. Also, the Revel has changed its player philosophy since opening two years ago and caters more to gamblers so their gaming numbers have improved 21% since last year and they haven’t even entered into an internet gaming compact yet.  Take into account the increase in nearby gaming competition and the slow recovery from Super Storm Sandy in the Atlantic City area it’s even more complicated.

Internet Gaming numbers have been consistently Increasing

Since its creation five months ago, we have seen steady increases in month to month internet gaming win despite the unrealistic expectations of Governor Christie whose administration originally projected $180 million in Internet gaming Taxes.  Keep in mind that Internet gaming is taxed at 7% while the land based casinos in Atlantic City are taxed at 14%.

According to the Division of Gaming Enforcement February gaming revenue results,  Internet gaming win increased 8.9%, from $9.5 million in January 2014 to $10.3 million for February 2014 despite three fewer calendar days. However, comparing February 2013 to 2014, total gaming win only decreased 1.5% for Atlantic City.  Five casino resorts in Atlantic City reported increases in gaming win for February 2014 from 5.8% to 25.6% compared to February 2013. Looking at these numbers it looks like the recent Atlantic City gaming decline has stabilized but then again the Atlantic Club is out of the picture so this could be an aberration.

248,241 internet gaming accounts have been created as of February 28, 2014, up 25.5% from the 197,782 accounts as of January 31. Many of the internet companies did soft launches in November and have since been improving their systems and adding new games and options.

OnlineBlackjack

It’s a whole new ball game

Many of the Online casinos are still in progression like Gamesys who are partnered with Tropicana. Gamesys is developing a poker site through their Virgin brand. Virgin Poker is currently on Facebook in Beta testing while Virgin Casino is currently online with slots and table games.  Because of the short time period in which many online-gaming providers had to operate in, we find some operators taking their time in perfecting a better product while some are more concerned with having a product available on November 21 to begin capture of the market. Some were ready and some were not, but will reward options trump ease of use in the player’s mind? Market analysis is still smoke and mirrors because the industry is so new and market development is still being built up.

As many Atlantic casino operators are discovering, the playing field is different, and what worked in Europe for many of these internet gaming companies doesn’t work here. Another caveat is that many of the online casinos have several different sites that share the profits in different percentages to the land based casino and the Internet gaming provider. This is why you see several sites for the same partnership with different games and options. In the meanwhile the better profits fall toward the land based providers because they usually reap the benefits of being the benefactor of NJ gaming for their on line endeavor.

Are the same players who play at the casino, playing online? 

The demographics are changing monthly so this is a hard statistic to ascertain. Most internet gaming sites would attribute less than 50 % of their online clientele to their online gaming database.  Keith Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Boyd Gaming, said: “Our market-leading performance is testament to the quality of our online product and the power of the Borgata brand. These results also once again demonstrate online gaming’s potential to expand our business. About 85 percent of our online players have not had rated play at Borgata in at least two years, showing there is little overlap with our land-based business. Online gaming is growing our database, creating a long-term opportunity to market Borgata to an entirely new group of customers.”  Borgata is destroying the competition and reaping the benefits of their lucrative database while expanding their reach into a new market.  Despite the worldwide recognition of Caesars International they are second to Borgata since online gaming has started.  Could the branding of slot manufacturer games online through sites like Borgata and Tropicana be an advantage? It’s very possible; the brand recognition of games from manufacturers like IGT could be part of the difference. The brand recognition these games possess have loyalty that transcends what the casinos offer and if one site has easier accessibility than another for the same slot game, then fans of that slot will go to that site.

Relocation and Depositing Problems

One of the biggest obstacles to internet gaming so far isn’t player interest but the problems with Geo Location and lack of functional depositing options. No online casino wants a hesitation in the process to where a customer can just be frustrated and not play.

Geolocation requires certain triangulations from signal responders and works better with Wi-Fi connections. There are also problems in certain state locations that are close to bordering states or near barren areas where triangulation is harder to discover and operators are wary of discovering a false negative. Some operators like Party Poker, 888 and others have even sent out wifi Adaptors called wifi “dongles,” to solve Geo-location issues; these adaptors strengthen a wifi signal.

The depositing problems are a big deterrent to ceaseless gaming for online casinos. Most credit card companies, especially Visa and MasterCard will not authorize internet gaming transactions. There was a short period in February where TD bank would not authorize any banking transactions going towards online gaming but that has since been resolved.

As time goes on, most experts agree that credit cards will become less trepidacious with on line gaming, but until that time, the best methods are using bank accounts and pre-paid debit cards. Services like Skrill, which act like an E-wallet similar to PayPal, are becoming a strong option to depositing online.

Pay-Near-Me is a deposit option available at 7-11 and Family Dollar stores where you make deposits into your gaming accounts that some sites like Tropicana Online Casino are accepting. The problem is the inconvenience of getting your paper money withdrawn and travelling to a store to make a deposit.

Despite these problems, there is a steady improvement to the geolocation and depositing challenges facing internet gaming. The number of on line gaming of player accounts has increased every month since its inception so the atmosphere is good for positive growth.

So Far So Good

The evidence so far is showing that internet gaming isn’t a serious obstacle to the land based casino progress. It could be predicted that the hopes for stabilization of losses that has plagued Atlantic City for years may be at an end with Internet gaming. If the majority of players on line aren’t the same players that go to land based casinos then a patronage could be developed for the land based side and make a new kind of player demographic.  It will be interesting to see how the Atlantic City casinos and their internet gaming partners will develop their relationships. This could will be more important than anything else because if the strategic objectives of these gaming partners aren’t aligned, the progress of this new industry and Atlantic City may hang in the balance.

Is the Race for Sports Betting Dead in NJ?

April 4, 2014

March Madness is ending and so goes another chance for Atlantic City to cash in on the lucrative sports betting market. Not only for the wagering but for the customers that will be brought into this struggling gambling town.

Sports betting is legal in one way or another in four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Since 2009 NJ has been actively trying to overturn the ban on sports betting and give it an edge on neighboring gaming states.

Interested parties recently held court at the iconic “Irish Pub” in Atlantic City NJ. Well known Atlantic City political leaders like Senate President Steve Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if Atlantic City could host March Madness and super bowl events the way Las Vegas can with their mega sports book centers. “We need to create a level playing field, let’s recognize the hypocrisy”, Former Atlantic City Mayor and current State Senator, Jim Whelan said. “It’s unfair only four states are allowed to have sports betting.”

Last March Las Vegas showed a 98% occupancy rate while the casinos took in over $100 million in sports bets. March Madness brings in a much needed boost to the Las Vegas economy during a traditionally slow period for vacation travel.

New Jersey has been trying to overturn the federal law banning sports betting since 2009, when a state lawmaker sued the federal government over the ban. This led to Governor Christie signing a sports book measure to allow state racetracks and Atlantic City casinos to have the ability to take wagers.

NJdelay

In reality, New Jersey dropped the ball back in 1992 when the state legislature failed to capitalize on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. This Act effectively outlawed sports betting nationwide except in a few states. Congress did leave a one year window of opportunity from the effective date of the bill for states which operated licensed casino gaming from the previous ten year period to pass laws permitting sports wagering. New Jersey never took the chance and now that neighboring states have casinos of their own, it’s coming back to haunt the Atlantic City casinos.

 

The Court of Appeals for the Third circuit in Philadelphia recently ruled 2 to 1 against New Jersey’s attempt to offer wagering on college and professional sports. The judges ruled that New Jersey’s law permitting sports betting violated the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Now after several attempts NJ is waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case.

“We thought from the very beginning, we‘d end up in the Supreme Court,” State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said. Sweeney believes New Jersey has a 50% chance of the Supreme Court taking on the case and that he expected that it may take this level of jurisprudence for sports betting in NJ to happen.

NJ is arguing that there is no direct federal law that stops individuals from wagering on sports. The state is arguing that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 makes it unlawful for a government agency to license or authorize any kind of wagering activity. So when you take this into account, New Jersey is saying that Congress has no authority to regulate sports betting, it’s a state matter. New Jersey isn’t alone, other states like Rhode Island and Missouri have tried to assemble bills that question PASPA and its authority at the state level.

New Jersey has been hit hard by neighboring states that have legalized gaming over the last few years. A state run Tourism commission was set up in 2011 to combat the effects of out of state casinos by marketing NJ as a destintnation that was more than just gaming. So far there are mixed results and the gaming numbers continue to decline according to New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement statistics.

For now, it’s waiting game to see if the Supreme Court picks up the case. New Jersey politicians have put in a good fight to make sports betting a reality in New Jersey.  Timing is critical as more border states continue to develop more casinos for NJ to compete against.

Anything that can help bring in customers to Atlantic City is welcome. Atlantic City’s recently elected Mayor Don Guardian  believes if sports betting is legalized, the shops and restaurants in the city will benefit as well. It’s part of his plan in reviving the sluggish Atlantic City economy.

“We’re very confident that if the Supreme Court takes this case,” said NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney. “It’s a slam dunk, we win.” Let’s hope so, for Atlantic City’s sake, the town is long due for win after years of struggling against the local competition. Sports betting may be the edge Atlantic City needs to stay afloat.

Will Congress Ban Internet Gaming in New Jersey?

March 31, 2014

Legislation to eliminate internet gaming was introduced to the senate and house on March 26 from members of the Democrat but mostly Republican parties.  These measures are aimed at reversing a 2011 decision by Attorney General Eric Holder that the 1961 Wire Act law used in recent years to control internet gaming is only exclusive to sports betting. Currently on the table in congress is for a reversal of this reinterpretation of the act to include internet gaming to be banned once more.

Adelson’s Power

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Sands casino mogul is backing this fight against on-line gaming in congress.  He has already said “I am willing to spend whatever it takes” against internet gaming. Based upon his previous record of financial contributions, Adelson will be more than apt at providing the funds to fuel the fire against internet gambling. The billionaire casino mogul spent over $92 million on losing GOP presidential candidates in 2012 but is savvier to backing more winnable candidates in the future. So far in 2014, Adelson and his wife have donated $181,000 to Republican candidates and party committees.

adelson

Adelson is supporting senators, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in their upcoming proposals in the house and senate against Internet Gaming to include the Internet Gambling Control Act of 2014. This includes Graham’s introduction of the bill in the senate that would reinstall the previous 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act that would ban internet gaming nationwide rather than letting the individual states decide.  Graham is continuing to look for support and finding it from Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-CA , who is against the initiative in her own state for internet gaming. Feinstein is a key contributor because she is such a well-known Democrat siding on a cause backed by major Republican contributor, Andelson. Besides Senator Feinstein, the only other support comes from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). Information about this bipartisan effort was included in a recent Press Release from Senator Graham.

On the same day these bills were introduced in the house and senate, the Democratic Governors Association released a statement disapproving of any form of government prohibition of internet gambling. Governors from states with lotteries would be concerned with anything controlling internet gaming because of the growing trend of being able to purchase lottery tickets over the internet.

Adelson’s Opponents

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is a supporter of on-line gaming, specifically on line poker and being the Senate Majority Leader in the gambling state makes him the biggest opposition to the bill. Reid is waiting to see what the bill looks like first before taking the first step against the legislation or towards amending it. “The best solution for Nevada is to allow internet poker”, Reid said.  “A significant expansion of gaming that would bring slot machines to every computer at home in America is bad for Nevada and bad for the country”, Reid also said.

Senator Dean Heller, R-Nev., is on the same page as Reid on the issue of keeping on-line gaming legal, though they’re in disagreement as to how get an on-line gaming bill through Congress. Heller wants the states to decide what is good for them and isn’t for a nationwide push.

Hidden Motives

What is Sheldon Adelson’s motivation for stopping online gaming? He says that younger gamblers will be vulnerable and that the online gaming industry cannot effectively stop minors from gamblers. Pointing out how off shore gambling still exists and the hypocrisy of the internet gaming industry saying it can prevent problem gambling. Adelson also believes that on-line gaming will hurt the land-based casinos in the long run and create a cannibalization of interests basing this assumption on certain jurisdictions in Europe. Ultimately, Adelson thinks it would be social media giants, like Facebook that would have the capacity to take out land based casinos completely if internet gaming progresses.  Adelson claims his efforts aren’t serving his own interests solely but also the gaming industry’s interests as a whole.

An interesting side plot is Adelson’s recent get together for future Republican Presidential political figures. Four Republican presidential hopefuls descended to Adelson’s Luxury hotel in Las Vegas on March 29th for what is being called the “Sheldon Primary”.  This list includes Ohio Governor John Kasich, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor Christie will be an interesting conversation piece since his state has approved internet gaming in New Jersey; how will this sway Sheldon’s support if he runs for President? Would Christie change his position? The topic of internet gaming didn’t come up in candidate speeches but Adelson has said his most pressing issue is with U.S. support for Israel. Each candidate did get one-on-one-time with Adelson and addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition, an advocacy group of which Adelson is a board member and benefactor.

The reinvigorated debate about internet gaming will continue but its momentum will be diminished because of another election year approaching. Most political experts agree that a Federal Bill banning online gaming is unlikely to pass. However, if compromises are sought, where will the line be drawn? It will be interesting to see how far these bills go and how far Mr. Adelson is willing to spend to make this an issue.

New Jersey Online Gambling: How did we get here? And what’s next?

March 26, 2014

2013 saw an important milestone for New Jersey’s gambling culture. On November 26th, New Jerseyans were able to gamble for real money over the internet, eliminating the need to leave their homes to play poker, slots, and other casino games. New Jersey’s entrance to the world of legal online gambling was a long, arduous process that spanned over five years and continues to develop today. Existing laws had to be altered to include references to internet gambling, and every proposed bill and revision had to pass through New Jersey legislature to ensure that any and all changes were made in accordance with New Jersey’s state constitution.

The Casino Control Act

The law that needed to be amended to allow online gambling was the Casino Control Act. The Casino Control Act was enacted in 1977 and outlines all operational regulations for the casino industry in New Jersey.

In the 1970s, casino gambling was a novel idea for New Jersey. It had only been done in a few places in the United States and New Jersey lawmakers and voters were cautious, yet optimistic. For the new casino industry’s own safety, the Casino Control Act contained strict rules about how Atlantic City’s casinos could be run. Any violation of the Casino Control Act could lead to a casino losing its license.

When New Jersey was the only place to access casino gaming on the east coast, nobody questioned the rules in the Casino Control Act. Those were the rules, and any person or company that wanted to operate a legal casino in Atlantic City needed to adhere to them. For decades, the Casino Control Act went unchallenged in New Jersey while other states adopted their own gambling laws, allowing casinos to open outside of New Jersey and compete with a rapidly aging Atlantic City.

Senator Lesniak’s Bill

Enter Bill S3167, sponsored and promoted by New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak in January 2010.  This bill was largely created to make Atlantic City casinos more competitive with New York and Pennsylvania casinos by deregulating them. New Jersey’s long history of legal gambling is fraught with government regulations, many of which were deemed by the bill’s authors inefficient for today’s gambling climate.

Lesniak sought to amend the Casino Control Act by adding language that includes games of chance played on the internet as legitimate casino games. In his original draft of the bill, any area used to run an internet gambling operation would be considered a restricted casino area. That meant the room where a gambling website’s server was stored or where its IT team managed the daily operations of the site. It required all casino areas related to online gambling to be located in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

New Roles and Responsibilities for New Jersey’s Existing Regulatory Agencies

The proposed changes also included updated responsibilities for New Jersey’s existing casino regulation agencies, the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Casino Control Commission, to include roles associated with online gambling.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement was created in 1977 to regulate the casino industry in New Jersey. It is part of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, which oversees the alcoholic beverage, horse racing, and legal gaming industries in the state as well as providing legal services to other New Jersey agencies. It ensures the safety of the public and enforces laws related to consumer rights.

The Casino Control Commission is the other New Jersey agency in charge of the state’s casinos. Like the Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Casino Control Commission was founded in 1977 with the passing of the Casino Control Act to regulate Atlantic City’s fledgling casinos. In 2011, the responsibility to regulate casino activities was transferred from the Casino Control Commission to the Division of Gaming Enforcement as part of the New Jersey State Assembly’s approval of Lesniak’s revised bill.

These agencies work together to handle the regulation of New Jersey casino gambling operations. All reports of fraud and misconduct related to legal gambling are reported to the Division of Gaming Enforcement and, if appealed, brought to the Casino Control Commission to resolve.

Hurdles for Online Gambling

Despite approval of Lesniak’s bill by both the New Jersey Senate and State Assembly, Governor Christie vetoed it in March 2011, calling for a voter’s referendum the following November.

One month later, the online gambling movement faced another hurdle. United States vs. Isai Scheinberg, founder of pokerstars.com, was decided and Full Tilt Poker and Pokerstars were shut down due to their violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act as well as money laundering and bank fraud on their owners’ part. This decision came to be known as Black Friday and set a precedent for online poker in the United States.

The Wire Act After Black Friday

Concerns about online gambling, fueled by Black Friday, spurred a closer inspection of the Wire Act. The Wire Act prohibits betting and wagering on sporting events through the use of wired communication.

When the Wire Act was enacted in 1961, nobody dreamed that we’d someday place bets and collect payment through the internet. Nobody had even heard of the word “internet.” The Act was created to outlaw international and interstate betting on sporting events and contests through wired communication, which at the time referred primarily to telephones. It was enacted in an effort to quell organized crime activity in the United States, which turned a large profit from illegal interstate and international gambling operations.

In September 2011, the United States Department of Justice concluded that anything other than sporting events or contests is not under regulation by the Wire Act. This was a narrow legal definition – the Department of Justice concluded that a “sporting event or contest” meant only that: baseball, football, racing, basketball and other endeavors of skill. This did not include games of chance, such as poker or roulette.

“I think New Jersey should be in that business.”

Following the voter’s referendum in 2011, Governor Christie stated that the adoption of legal online gambling would be a good thing for Atlantic City and New Jersey.

That year, revised internet gambling bills S1565 and its equivalent, A2578 (both backed by Senator Lesniak) were put through the New Jersey Senate and Assembly to address previously stated concerns about online gambling’s effects on existing business and the public’s health. Under these new bills, internet cafes could not advertise themselves as online gambling hubs or otherwise advocate gambling on their premises in any way.

Progress for New Jersey

The New Jersey Senate’s State Government Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee approved of S1565, a bill sponsored by Senators Lesniak and Whelan, to allow online gambling. Following this was A2578, which would amend the Casino Control Act to allow internet gambling operations to begin. It passed in the Senate, and New Jersey was one step closer to legal online gambling.

Governor Christie vetoed the bill, but with the intention of approving it after a few edits. The bill’s authors quickly edited it to require the state to take 15%, instead of 10%, of gambling revenue as an operational tax. It also made the bill, if signed into law, only valid for ten years following its approval.

Governor Christie Approved.

Once the bill was approved and signed into law, the casinos wanted in. Companies partnered with Atlantic City casinos to provide online gaming and testing began to make sure everything was ready for November, when gambling websites could go live.

In November 2013, the newly amended Casino Control Act allowed New Jerseyans to legally access online poker, slots, baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and other games for the first time. This was the beginning of the ten-year trial period. Until 2023, online gambling in New Jersey will be closely monitored and, if necessary, subject to revised laws.

Challenges of the Future

Politics is a game of tug of war. Laws are created, and opposing groups try to pull these laws to align closer with their ideologies by trying to change their wording and interpretation. An example of this is the Internet Gambling Control Act. Sponsored by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, it seeks to change the Wire Act by making the Wire Act’s definition of “wire communication” include any activity that involves the internet, making “any sporting event or contest” include all types of games of chance, and “wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers” include use of the internet as a transmission form.

It’s up to the governing bodies to maintain a fair interpretation of existing statutes and altering them so they remain fair to all of society’s changing needs, rather than the needs of just certain groups.

As New Jersey’s ten year probationary period for online gambling continues, lawmakers and the public will see what works and what doesn’t, working out the snares and kinks as they come up. No United States law is unchangeable, and this will likely not be the last amendment to the Casino Control Act.

Geolocation Problems Persist with New Jersey Online Casinos

March 19, 2014

When online gambling became available to all players age 21 and older in New Jersey, the casino websites had to be able to verify that their players were only logging in from New Jersey, as per the rules set forth by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. To ensure this, the state contracted third party geolocation services to do the job. This job is known as a Know Your Customer, or KYC, verification service.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement licensed multiple geolocation services to serve gambling websites hosted in the state. Central Account Management System, or CAMS, xyVerify, GeoComply, and Locaid are all geolocation service providers who have been authorized to verify players’ locations.

To prove that they’re in New Jersey, all players must download a WiFi plug-in from the website where they’d like to play. This plug-in helps to verify their location by giving a stronger, directed signal right back to the geolocation service’s server. It is a piece of software that must be downloaded to the player’s computer before he or she can log into a casino website and play. This method of verification was chosen by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement because it is much more accurate than relying on cell phone service towers to locate players. In Nevada, approximating players’ locations through cell tower service works fine because its borders are very sparsely populated. This type of verification is accurate within about a mile’s space. In New Jersey, using this method would cause problems for thousands of players. Some of New Jersey’s most densely populated areas are along the New York and Pennsylvania borders. WiFi-based verification is accurate within feet of where the player’s signal is emitted from.

Geolocation Problems

This method is verification was accurate, but not foolproof. Within a day of legalized gambling, hundreds of New Jerseyans reported problems with geolocation. At first, this was about ten percent of people who tried to log into gambling websites in New Jersey – a large enough portion of the population that casinos’ profits would be significantly cut, as well as their reputations damaged, if they didn’t act fast.

What was happening was, even with the plug-in, some players’ WiFi signals were still too weak to reach the geolocation service providers’ servers. Others had a more difficult problem to fix – no WiFi. These players accessed the internet through hard ethernet cables, either by choice or because they were working on older machines that required an ethernet connection. These players were greeted with an error message stating that the website could not verify that they were in New Jersey, barring them from gambling online.

To fix this, large gambling websites like 888Poker.com, NJPartyPoker.com, and WSOP.com offered WiFi dongles, or adapters, to players who were having trouble logging in to play. These devices boosted, or in some cases, created, users’ WiFi signals, making previously-unreachable customers able to log onto gambling websites and play.

Internet Gambling

Locking Out Players Means Losing Business

A happy player is a loyal customer, and the casino sites knew they needed to act quickly to retain the players who experienced problems. The cost incurred by the giveaway, approximately $10 per dongle, was insignificant compared to the amount of money they would have lost by alienating these players. Once the companies began giving WiFi dongles to players, reports of geolocation errors decreased. They haven’t completely been resolved, but currently, about 5% of players still report issues trying to verify their location and log into casino websites.

There is currently a buffer zone in place around New Jersey’s borders, which is where the 5% of locked-out players reside. The Division of Gaming Enforcement worked with geolocation providers to create this border, and is in the process of shrinking it until it is accurate down to the exact state line, allowing players on the New Jersey side of its borders to play. Since the initial geolocation problems were fixed, gambling revenues have grown and are expected to do so as the state works to eliminate the buffer zone completely, allowing all eligible New Jersey gamblers to log on and play for real money online.

More on Geolocation

Geolocation technology has changed the way we interact with and perceive our surroundings. Nobody uses a paper map to reach their destination anymore – just plug where you want to go into the GPS and a friendly voice will give you step-by-step directions to get there. It’s the technology at play when you check into a location on Facebook or Foursquare and how apps like Gasbuddy know the closest gas stations to suggest to you.

Because geolocation has made it possible for a website or mobile device to determine its user’s physical location, it also made it possible to restrict certain sites’ usage to people only within, or outside of, a specific area. Right now, online gambling is only legal within the borders of Nevada and New Jersey. To operate within the law’s parameters, gambling websites use geolocation technology to ensure that their players are within these states’ borders. If a website cannot prove that its users are within the area where it’s authorized to operate, it may not legally continue to do business.

How Does Geolocation Work?

Although it sounds simple, geolocation is actually a complicated process that is prone to flaws. Since online gambling became legal in New Jersey in 2013, some users reported problems with the websites verifying that they were, in fact, logging in from locations within New Jersey. Others reported being able to log in, only to have an error message interrupt them in the middle of a poker match, stating that the website could not verify that they were in New Jersey. To understand how these errors occurred, you need to know a bit about how geolocation technology works.

Smartphones and tablets have GPS chips inside them, which use satellite data to calculate their position on Earth. When the sky is clear, these satellite signals can reach mobile devices easily and accurately provide a user with her or her geographic location. When the weather’s less clear and the satellite signals can’t reach mobile devices as easily, tablets and phones use the signals from nearby cell phone service towers to approximate the device’s position. This is a slower, less accurate process, but is usually able to determine a device’s location fairly closely.

Laptop and desktop computers handle geolocation a little bit differently, though. When you use the internet on a computer, your browser is what determines your location. It does this by gathering information through your IP address and WiFi connection location. This is what’s happening when certain websites prompt you to share your location with your browser – it’s the browser’s way of locating you to be able to give you a more tailored experience with the site. For example, say you type “Chinese food” into a search engine without specifying where you’re located or where you’re looking to purchase this Chinese food. If you’ve shared your location information with your browser, your top search results will be the Chinese food restaurants that are closest to you. When a user consents to sharing his or her location with their browser, their location information is sent to Google Location Services, the database that stores the information used to produce search results like the Chinese food example above and useful tools like Google Maps. Mozilla, Safari, Internet Explorer and Chrome all share information with Google Location Services, helping to create a comprehensive map of the world.

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