New Jersey online launch date in jeopardy; interstate compacts a “complex animal”

new-jersey-online-gambling-launch-delayNew Jersey’s online gambling market may not make its Nov. 23 targeted launch date if the latest missive from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) is any indication.’s John Brennan obtained a copy of a letter the DGE sent to Atlantic City casinos this week listing all sorts of missing information on their applications to become licensed online gambling operators. The missing info includes a lack of detail on hardware specifications and the failure to disclose all contracts with third-party vendors and service providers. The DGE has warned casinos to submit properly filled-in applications by next Friday.

New Jersey’s timetable for launching their online market is/was widely viewed as aggressive and/or wildly optimistic, especially considering the comparatively tortoise-like pace taken by Nevada, which remains the only US jurisdiction in which a state-licensed operator is taking bets of any form, and even there only one such operator has actually opened for business. On the plus side, a delay in New Jersey’s official launch date isn’t likely to delay the prospect of New Jersey and Nevada sharing online poker liquidity, in part because Nevada’s go-slow approach means the state has yet to officially sanction such activity.

However, that interstate goal inched slightly closer this week as the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) entertained a petition by gaming device makers Bally Technologies and International Game Technology (IGT) to allow them to offer multi-state progressive slots jackpots. In February, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed legislation that would permit the state’s online gambling operators to accept action from players in other states, but the NGCB has yet to formulate the necessary regulations to make that dream a reality. NGCB chairman A.G. Burnett told Vegas Inc. that the mere act of considering Bally and IGT’s request amounted to Nevada “sticking our toe in the water” before jumping into the deep end of interstate compacts for online poker liquidity.

As for progress on negotiating any such compacts, Burnett pleaded that his hands were tied until the regulations were finalized (which could happen as early as October). Burnett said he’d had “preliminary conversations” with other “interested” states, but the man Burnett replaced as NGCB chairman thinks compacts may not be the smartest way to go about things.

In a recent interview with CardPlayer, former NGCB chairman Mark Lipparelli (pictured right) said it was “likely that state-to-state, multiple-market initiatives will begin in 2014” but suggested the crafting of these agreements will be a more “complex animal” than most people realize. Lipparelli warned that entering into compacts will get even trickier once you get past the first bilateral agreement, but floated the idea that perhaps establishing “far-reaching agreements is not the right direction.”

Lipparelli believes not all states will wish to go to the bother of writing legislation/regulations, etc., and will instead opt for a simple tweak of existing laws to allow state residents to place wagers with companies based in “gaming markets where such operations are legal and licensed.”

As for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s insistence that a federal online poker regime is still possible – as recently as late August, Reid was telling NewsReview that states wouldn’t need to enter into compacts if his latest federal push proved successful – Lipparelli believes the “time to act was during the last 24 months” and that the window of opportunity for passing nationwide legislation has “essentially closed.” With Nevada already online, Delaware set to go live in October and New Jersey at least aiming for a November launch, Lipparelli believes “the complexity associated with unwinding now is probably too great.”