THE FIGHT: Who Will Be Ready in New Jersey on November 26?

Last week the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement issued its first internet gaming license. The lucky recipient was the Borgata. Although Borgata’s technology partner, bwin.party, has not yet received its own license, it seems like DGE really does mean to launch online gaming on November 26, come hell or high water.

The question now becomes which, if any, of the casino operators will be ready to launch at that time. Readiness requires not only a casino license, but that the casinos’ technology partners are licensed as well.

888 and its All American Poker Network should be ready on Day 1.

888 and its All American Poker Network should be ready on Day 1.

The Caesars-888 partnership seems like a lock to obtain both halves of the required approvals in time for launch. Caesars is already up and running in Nevada. 888 provides Caesars’ technology in Nevada and is set to launch online gaming in Delaware (in partnership with Scientific Games) as soon as later this month. As long as both companies dotted all their I’s and crossed all their t’s on their licensing applications, they should receive licenses in short order.

That may mean that New Jersey players can fire up WSOP.com and 888’s All American Poker Network as an escape from family squabbles on Thanksgiving.

The picture is cloudier after Caesars-888, however. Bwin.party has suitability questions, of course, due to its 2009 admissions that it violated U.S. criminal law by serving U.S. customers pre-2006. Rational Group, the technology partner of Resorts Casino, has its own suitability questions stemming from its refusal to leave the U.S. market in 2006 after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law.

Of the six other casinos in New Jersey that are eligible for internet gaming licenses, two – Atlantic Club and Revel – haven’t even announced technology partners yet.  It would be surprising if either one is in the New Jersey online gaming mix before 2014.

That leaves a smattering of one-off partnerships: Golden Nugget with Bally Technologies; Tropicana with Gamesys; Trump Plaza with Betfair / GameAccount Network; and Trump Taj Mahal with Ultimate Gaming.

In each instance, there are questions about one or both halves of the partnership and its/their ability to be ready by November 26. Many of those questions turn on the technology partners’ inexperience with the level of regulatory scrutiny required in the United States and the ability of the casinos to line up all necessary content partners and/or complete all required game content development in time for launch. For example, Ultimate Gaming may already be offering poker in Nevada, but will it be able to get its casino games and slot games in order by November 26?

The next seven weeks are going to be a mad scramble in New Jersey for just about anyone connected to the online gaming industry. The winners will be the companies who push their pieces over the finish line just in time for online gaming’s starting gun.

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Kevin McGrady

Legislative and Politics Beat Writer: Kevin McGrady practiced corporate law in New York City for eight years before moving to Las Vegas in 2008 to join the gaming industry. Kevin is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University School of Law.
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