New Jersey has more options for playing online poker than any other state. If you live there, or just visit, you have the good fortune to be able to play in the USA’s best online poker rooms.
As the home of Atlantic City, New Jersey has a close relationship with its casinos and the world of legal gambling. So when the Department of Justice changed its opinion on whether states could legalize online gaming, New Jersey was one of the first to act.
The first hand of legal online poker in New Jersey was dealt on November 21, 2013. Since then tens of thousands of poker players have played online in a safe legal environment.
Here we take you through all you need to know about playing online poker in New Jersey; the law, where you can play and what games are available.
It is legal to play online poker in New Jersey. However, you must play at a poker room licensed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). On February 26, 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed bill A2578 which legalized online poker and online casino games as well as some other forms of betting.
The new law stipulated that you must be:
You don’t have to be a legal resident of New Jersey to play, you can play even if you are just visiting the state. You can even open your account from outside New Jersey, but you won’t be allowed to play poker for real money unless the geolocation software used by the poker rooms identifies that you are within the state borders.
All New Jersey licensed poker rooms show a DGE logo, usually at the bottom of the home page. Check for this logo to be sure you are playing at a legal state-regulated site. The law gives you a lot of protection, in particular it ensures that you can legally make deposits and withdrawals and that the games are fair.
The New Jersey DGE lists all the legal gambling sites which have a state license on its website.
Seven operators are approved to offer online poker. Each is partnered with an existing NJ licensed casino as required by the law. They and their partner casinos are:
In effect there are four online poker rooms. Players at the WSOP and 888 play against each other. Even though 888 and WSOP are separate companies, they combine their player pools. The combined poker room is known as the All American Poker Network (AAPN).
PartyPoker, Borgata Poker and PlayMGM work similarly. PalaPoker is by far the smallest operator in New Jersey and it has its own software and a separate player pool.
PokerStars is also independent, so all players at its tables have a PokerStars account.
In addition, New Jersey is a member of the Multistate Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). This is an interstate compact between New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada which enables player pools to be shared between states. WSOP is the only site which is licensed in both Nevada and New Jersey, so its player pool benefits from the addition of Nevada players. Since that pool is shared with 888 which operates the Delaware poker platform, Delaware players are also at the tables.
In other words, the AAPN player pool includes players from all three states. This makes for better player liquidity and larger tournament guarantees. Each operator maintains its own brand and has different promotions and bonuses.
Poker sites regulated by the DGE operate according to New Jersey law. The law provides substantial protections for players. The regulator is active in enforcing any infringements. Furthermore, the major poker rooms are all operated by international companies with multi-billion dollar values.
Pala Poker is a minnow in comparison, but it is operated by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. They have operated a casino resort in California since 2001.
All the online operators are not only licensed by the DGE, but partnered with major US casino groups with high reputations for consumer service.
The law protects your money, it ensures that games are safe and fair, and it offers legal redress in case anything goes wrong. If you play online poker at a New Jersey regulated site, you can be sure that everyone playing at your table is doing so legally. There are strict protections to prevent under-age gambling and the identity of all players is verified.
Players at risk of problem gambling are also protected as every poker room has a legal obligation to provide self-exclusion options and deposit limits. All NJ licensed sites provide links to support organizations for any customer who thinks they may have a gambling problem.
You can trust your play to NJ regulated sites, secure in the knowledge that the DGE has made them the safest possible place to play online poker.
Any online poker site that does not display the logo of a US state regulator is not offering poker legally. You really should avoid these sites.
The biggest problem with offshore poker sites is that you have no legal recourse if anything goes wrong. If they go bust, you will almost certainly lose any money you have deposited with them.
You have no idea of their ownership, or where their money goes. Hundreds of offshore sites have been identified as being operated by criminal organizations. In 2016, Italian police shut down many Dollaro poker sites which were run by the ‘Ndrangheta crime organization. The poker network operated on servers based in Florida.
The 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) prohibited US financial institutions from processing any transactions to or from offshore unregulated gambling sites. Which means that they have to use illegal methods to pay out any winnings you make. This is definitely not a safe environment for online poker players—even if the offshore site is acting completely legally in its own jurisdiction.
The legal New Jersey regulated sites offer competitive new player bonuses, competitive pricing for cash game rake and tournament fees and more sophisticated and user friendly software. In New Jersey there is no reason to go outside the legal offer. Stay safe, play in the licensed rooms and you will avoid any risk.
The New Jersey gambling laws allow NJ sports betting, slots, craps, roulette, video poker, blackjack and online poker. The regulator has the authority to authorize other gambling games and has even trialed betting on the Oscars.
Such a wide ranging set of gambling options is intended to dissuade New Jersey players from going outside the legal system for their online gambling.
The laws impose fees and taxes on the operators, but these are set at a level which allows the operators to make a profit without increasing their prices so that they are competitive with offshore sites.
Poker operators pay 15% of the gross gaming revenues in state taxes and a further 2.5% as a contribution to the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA).
License fees are $400,000 for a license plus $250,000 as an annual and renewal fee. The annual fee helps fund state problem gambling programs.
These are comparatively low costs. In Pennsylvania the full set of internet gambling licenses costs $10 million, with a further $10 million if the operator wants to add online sports betting.
There’s no shortage of venues for New Jersey players who want to take their online experience to the live tables. The live experience is very different to playing online. Physical tells become important, the games play much slower but table chat and socializing with other players create a very different experience.
The Borgata is the top destination for live poker in Atlantic City. The casino maintains a dedicated poker room with 85 tables.
The Borgata also hosts some big tournaments including the televised Main Tour WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open. Smaller buy-in events run throughout the week.
Cash game tables at a variety of stakes are always running. Texas Hold’em, Stud and Omaha games are routinely available. High stakes mixed games will run if there’s a demand.
For its online poker room, the Borgata has partnered with PartyPoker. The online poker room regularly offers promotions which cross-over to the live casino.
With 42 poker tables, Bally’s provides the second largest poker room in Atlantic City. As part of the Caesars Entertainment group, its poker room carries the WSOP brand.
In the past it has hosted WSOP Circuit events, but the major annual event is the Bally’s Poker Classic tournament series.
Cash game players can enjoy limit and no limit hold’em as well as Omaha games on a daily basis.
Bally’s online presence is through Caesars WSOP.com poker room. The casino promotes the online room and through the Caesars Total Rewards program, players can earn casino benefits from their online poker and sports betting wagers.
Only a short walk from the Borgata lies its major competitor on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, Harrah’s.
The property is owned by Caesars Entertainment which in turn owns the World Series of Poker (WSOP). No surprise then that it hosts the Atlantic City stop on the WSOP Circuit.
There are 40 poker tables in the poker room with cash games for Texas no limit hold’em, limit hold’em and Omaha. The regular tournament schedule offers affordable buy-in events as well as higher stake tournaments during peak season.
Players at Harrah’s can join the Caesars Total Rewards, one of the best VIP programs around. Harrah’s Atlantic City plays host to the annual Total Rewards Freeroll Poker Tournament which brings in players from around the country.
Online Harrah’s is part of the Caesars poker room which is naturally WSOP.com.
The Golden Nugget offers a friendly poker room consisting of just 10 tables. This makes for a convivial atmosphere which is supported by regular promotions. There’s a free buffet after five hours at the tables on Friday and Saturday; only four hours of play necessary on Sundays.
The tables are at the lower end of stakes for cash games, at $1/$2 and $2/$5 for Omaha and no limit hold’em. Limit players can play at blinds of $3/$6.
The third Caesars property in Atlantic City carries the company’s name. It boasts a 20 table poker room called the Poker Arena.
Cash game tables are mainly no limit hold’em, with blinds from $1/$2 to $5/$10. Higher stakes tables are available by arrangement. These games run day and night, so players with enough stamina can settle in for really long sessions.
As with the other two casinos, Caesars offers online poker through its WSOP.com poker room.
The Tropicana used to feature a 42 table poker room, but the decline of live poker after Black Friday saw the tables cut to a still respectable 18.
Texas no limit hold’em remains the game of choice, although limit tables and Omaha tables are sometimes spread.
The Tropicana offers one unusual stake level, $7.50/$15. The game is differentiated by the provision of pink $2.50 chips.
You can play poker with your friends for real money at home in New Jersey. BUT, there must be no rake charged and no other fees levied on players. You can’t advertise a home game, it has to be strictly between friends.
If you do play in an “underground” game, so long as you are only a player, you will not be committing an offense. However, anyone who organizes such a game may be prosecuted. The legal definition of player includes the following text:
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.”
State-regulated online poker began after the Department of Justice produced a new interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961. Issued in September 2011, the new opinion stated that the act only covered sporting events and contests. Until then, the Wire Act prevented states from legalizing online poker.
New Jersey wasn’t the first to market, that honor went to Nevada, but it was the third state to launch online poker.
State Senator Ray Lesniak was the motor force behind the new legislation. He could see the decline in casino revenues and the opportunity that online gaming presented.
Assembly Bill A2578 passed on February 26, 2013. The vote was 68-5. The Senate passed its version of the bill by an overwhelming vote of 35-1. Governor Chris Christie was right behind the new legislation and immediately passed it into law.
After an early boom, online poker has gradually produced a lower and lower proportion of state gambling revenues.
Initial estimates suggested that poker and casino would split the online market roughly equally between them. That forecast was a long way off, and over the first five years of regulation, poker dropped to around 5 percent of gaming revenues.
The introduction of legal sports betting in 2018 has shifted casino focus to the new product, but online poker remains a solid component of the New Jersey online gaming scene.
There are grounds for optimism that poker will grow over the next few years. As a member of the Multistate Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), New Jersey is already benefiting from the larger player pools. The Nevada market is small, Delaware is tiny, but at some point in the next year or two, Pennsylvania is expected to join.
Already, with only one poker room live in the state, revenues at PokerStars PA are greater than total online poker revenues in New Jersey.
When the Pennsylvania poker rooms are able to share their player pools with New Jersey, the network effects should be considerable.
Larger player pools mean more tables available at games and stakes that players want to play. In particular they mean bigger headline tournament guarantees.
In the global market, PokerStars uses the tag line, “PokerStars makes millionaires.” In the US, PokerStars doesn’t regularly make millionaires, because the player pool is so small. Adding PA to NJ player numbers may well mean more million dollar prizes which are extremely powerful marketing messages.
New Jersey offers the widest range of online gambling in the US. Sports betting, casino games, poker and horse race betting are all available online.
There are three race tracks where player can bet on horse racing:
The last two also offer sports betting.
There are five off-track betting halls:
There is also an annual horse race on a New Jersey beach!
The New Jersey Lottery offers a selection of lottery draw games including the big money Mega Millions and Powerball. 50 percent of revenues goes to prizes and 34 percent to education in the state.
Non-profit organizations are allowed to run charity gambling events. These include casino nights, raffles and bingo.
The minimum age for online poker is 21, as it is for all gambling in casinos. Gambling on the lottery or on horse racing is permitted from age 18.