New Jersey Gambling Laws

New Jersey Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in New Jersey?

Most Americans are aware that New Jersey gambling laws allow casino gaming in Atlantic City, but gamblers across the USA may not know how much flux the New Jerseyan legal code is facing at the moment. The May 2012 announcement by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that his state would defy a longstanding federal ban on sports betting shows that the state's gambling laws are still evolving.

Poker Law in the State of New Jersey

As a state with a large amount of regulated gambling, New Jersey has a lengthy and complex set of laws regarding gambling activity. But where exactly does poker fall among that obtuse collection of statutes and regulations?

Poker players in New Jersey actually have in pretty good compared to the residents of fellow U.S. states like Nebraska or Utah. To start, poker isn't even clearly defined as gambling under New Jersey state law. The pivotal definition is "contest of chance," which you'll find in Section 2C:37-1. It doesn't mention poker specifically, referring to activities where the "outcome depends in a material degree" on luck or chance. The exact distribution of luck and skill in poker remains an open legal question, creating a bit of space for poker players in New Jersey.

Despite that space, one should assume that the government of New Jersey still considers poker to be a form of gambling. After making that assumption, what are the choices for poker players in New Jersey who want to play legal real money poker?

The most high-profile choice would be the live poker rooms at the dozen or so casinos in Atlantic City. Poker is a big part of the gambling culture in A.C., with such legendary rooms as the Trump (where Phil Ivey is said to have cut his teeth) sitting alongside relative newcomers like the luxurious poker room at Borgata. 
In addition to play at commercial casinos, you can also get in some real-money poker at licensed charitable events (referred to as "casino nights") in New Jersey. Complete details about the relevant regulations and licensees is posted at the website for the Dept for Consumer Affairs of New Jersey, which is charged with overseeing charitable gambling in the state.

The final question for poker players: what about home games? Thanks to an exception located in subsection 37-1 of Section 2C, social gambling - which includes a private game of poker played among friends - is not considered gambling as far as the laws of New Jersey are concerned. The only real caveat is that in order to qualify as social gambling, all players must be on "equal terms" - that is to say there must be no "house" in the game that holds an inherent statistical advantage over players.

New Jersey Gambling Industry

This article discusses the New Jersey gambling industry and its regulatory agencies, but I want to touch on Governor Christie's challenge to the US Justice Department, because it points out something fundamental about New Jersey's gambling infrastructure. People in the gambling world have discussed for some time that Atlantic City seems to be dying a slow death, as the proliferation of racinos in Pennsylvania has siphoned off Pennsylvanian gamblers and the rise of Indian casinos like Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods in Connecticut have taken clients from the entire Tri-state area from Atlantic City.

Take these developments with the rise of online gambling and New Jersey's onetime formidable gaming interests have taken a major hit in the past 10 to 20 years. These days, Atlantic City is home to only 12 open casinos: Trump Plaza, The Tropicana Casino, Revel Entertainment, the Showboat Atlantic City, Resorts Casino, the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Borgata, Bally's Atlantic City, and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel. Taken together with New Jersey's race tracks, these are the gambling interests Chris Christie is trying to protect by asserting New Jersey's right to allow sports gambling on baseball, basketball, football, and other American sports.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

This story stretches back two decades to the installation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, also known as the Bradley Act. The law was passed by the US Senate in 1991 and the US House of Representatives in 1992, limiting legal sports gambling to four American states: Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. At the same time, the law stipulated that any state which had allowed sportsbooks in the previous 10 year period would have a 1-year grace period to sign onto this act, becoming the fifth state with an exemption. Because New Jersey was the one state this applied to, it was clear that national lawmakers were leaving a lifeline for the New Jersey gambling industry.

That one-year period came and went without New Jersey lawmakers carving out an exception for their state, so New Jersey's casinos and racetracks were left without an important source of revenue. As the years have passed and sports gaming has become a bigger potential source of revenue, this has left Atlantic City at an ever larger disadvantage. That the State of New Jersey is challenging this 20 year old US law is a sign of how far gone the situation has become, but this might be New Jersey's lawmakers last ditch effort to save their failing gambling industry. Let's examine that industry and the state regulators who oversee it.

New Jersey Casino Control Act and Commission Regulations

Changes have been coming for some time. In February 2011, Chris Christie signed into law the New Jersey Casino Control Act and Commission Regulations. Among other things, this transferred oversight of New Jersey casinos from the Casino Control Commission to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The new organization's mission statement includes the need to root out the corruption of organized crime from Atlantic City's casinos. This is a worthy reason to set up a brand new regulatory authority (and would seem to be a condemnation of the previous agency). This also could be seen as a move meant to protect New Jersey from charges that their sport gambling operations might be particularly corrupt when this latest legal challenge was mounted. Whatever the case, the Division of Gaming Enforcement regulates gaming at all of Atlantic City's casino gaming operations I listed above.

New Jersey Charitable Gaming Laws

The charitable gaming industry of the state is regulated by the Games of Chance Control Commission. New Jersey has a large charitable gambling network, including an estimated 12,000 charitable gaming organizations. This includes a patchwork of religious, civic organizations, clubs, educational groups, patriotic organizations, charities, and senior citizens groups who offer bingo games and raffles. The revenues collected each you is roughly $85,000,000 per year.

Learn About Other State Laws

New Jersey Lottery Laws

Since 1971, New Jersey has had a state lottery. Games offered by the state lottery organization include the Pick 6 Lotto and Jersey 5 Cash, along with the Pick 3 and Pick 4 games. The state has also signed contracts with both the Powerball and Mega Millions multi-state lottery associations.

New Jersey Racing Laws

The New Jersey Racing Commission is a division of the Department of Law & Public Safety, which serves under the direction of New Jersey's Attorney General. The Racing Commission regulates New Jersey's four race tracks, along with all of the state's parimutuel wagers, off-track betting, and simulcasts. The four horse tracks regulated are the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, Freehold Raceway in Freehold, Atlantic City Racetrack in Mays Landing, and Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ. The latest legal maneuvers by the New Jersey governor have implications for these gambling venues, because these tracks might also handle sports betting one day.

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