Online Gambling Set to Launch in New Jersey

By Shawn Dwyer 11/26/13

Residents of New Jersey will be able to enjoy all the fun and excitement of Atlantic City right from their own homes. And that has anti-gambling advocates worried.

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350,000 in New Jersey are compulsive gamblers
Photo via Shutterstock

Whether blackjack or poker or even the slots, gamblers will soon play the game of their choice from their living rooms – or in some cases their basements – when Internet gambling potentially opens to the public today.

Following five days of testing which began last week, New Jersey will launch more than a dozen websites operated by Atlantic City casinos in the largest expansion of gambling in the state since casinos were first introduced in 1978. The way was paved when Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation permitting casino-run internet gambling nine months ago, even though he vetoed early versions of the bill over economic and addiction concerns. "This was a critical decision, and one that I did not make lightly," Christie said. Those concerns led the state to institute a number of safeguards like requiring users to submit multiple forms of identification, allowing players to set spending and time limits, and even monitoring habits in order to intercede when players appear to be losing control. But the safeguards aren’t enough for advocates, who fear that gambling addiction will only grow. "It’s not an issue of could or might. It will," said Les Bernal, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling. "The evidence is overwhelming that internet gambling – of all forms of gambling – is the most addictive,” he said.

Regardless of such concerns, the gambling industry is licking their chops over the prospect of tapping into New Jersey’s large populace. While smaller states like Nevada and Delaware have beaten the Garden State to the punch by launching their own online gambling sites early this year, New Jersey represents over 8.9 million potential customers. "New Jersey is a massive opportunity because New Jersey has obviously taken a decision to enable regulated operators to offer casino games and poker, and for us it's the start of something very, very exciting," said Ben Carter, digital director of London-based firm Betfair, which runs Trump Plaza’s online casino.

Of those 8.9 million, however, an estimated 350,000 people in New Jersey are considered to be compulsive gamblers. "Ninety-five percent of the people who are doing this will have no problem at all," said Arnie Wexler, a recovering gambling addict and former executive director of New Jersey’s Council on Compulsive Gambling. "But the five percent who do have a problem, they’re going to destroy their lives."

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.