Geocomply encounters first major malfunction in years, NJ poker tournaments cancelled

Geolocation Issue Results In Hour-Long Disruption To New Jersey Online Gambling

Gamblers in New Jersey had an unpleasant experience last night. Internal technical difficulties at geolocation technology provider GeoComply resulted in disconnections for players using mobile devices.

The problem lasted roughly an hour.

“Last night we encountered an unexpected network communications error,” explained Elizabeth Cronan, GeoComply’s VP of Government Relations. “Our team responded to [the problem] and remedied [it] immediately. We have alerted all affected clients and they are aware of the issue and the steps that were taken to resolve it as quickly as possible.”

Another representative stated that the problem arose with the communication systems within the company’s datacenter.

Poker tournaments disrupted, operators respond

The issue affected online poker, sports betting and casino users across the state. This was particularly a problem for online poker operators, who were either forced to pause tournaments or allow players to be blinded off.

WSOP and PokerStars have been settling the matter privately with players, while Partypoker was more openly communicative at the time.

PokerStars followed up with an explanation and a promise to refund affected players this morning.

Asked for comment, WSOP’s Executive Director Ty Stewart had the following to say:

“It is unfortunate there was a state-wide issue with one of iGaming’s key vendors which interrupted service for most NJ online poker operators for 45 mins on Thursday night.  We view it as an isolated incident and will look to process the appropriate compensation to impacted players in short order.”

Sports bettors keen on in-play betting may also have experienced frustration and missed opportunities. The only major sporting event taking place was the NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. For casino users, the issue was merely a temporary nuisance.

An invisible but crucial technology

The product responsible for the downtime is called GeoComply

The company’s geolocation services are built into every mobile casino app or other downloadable gambling product that’s regulated at the state level.

Those wishing to play on desktop using their web browser must download the GeoGuard extension. That occasionally produces some hassles of its own, but once installed, the technology is effectively invisible until a problem occurs as it did on Thursday.

What GeoComply does, in a nutshell, is allow gambling operators to determine with great precision and reliability where their users are when they attempt to place a bet or play a hand of poker. This is critical, as state laws require players to be physically within their borders in order to play legally.

This monitoring happens on a continuous basis. Thus, when an error like last night’s occurs, bets get refused and players get disconnected from their poker games.

The exception that proves the rule

As unfortunate and frustrating as the error was for New Jersey gamblers, the silver lining is that it’s extremely rare.

The first online casinos in NJ launched in November 2013. For the first six months or so, geolocation failures were a recurring problem. Once Geocomply ironed out those early wrinkles, however, there have been few problems, at least in terms of disconnections.

That said, the technology isn’t perfect. What problems have occurred in the years since 2014 have mostly run the other direction. Disconnections may be rare, but operators have occasionally run afoul of state regulators due to players successfully circumventing geolocation.

Last year, Gaming Innovation Group received a $25,000 fine after a casino user managed to place a single bet from somewhere outside the state. Neither the user’s actual location nor the amount of the bet were disclosed.

Overall, the technology has been working exceptionally well, given the short time it has been in use and the huge amount of betting traffic that relies upon it.

Players in New Jersey likely placed somewhere north of $10 billion in online casino and sports bets in 2019. That this is the biggest misstep in years is, in that light, a testament to GeoGuard’s reliability.

Who to contact if your tournament was canceled

Were you among the NJ poker players affected by tournament cancellations? Chances are that a refund and/or share of the prize pool are coming your way already. It may take a day or two for operators to finish distributing the money, however.

If you’re waiting for compensation and don’t receive it soon, you can reach out to the operator directly. Here’s how to do that, depending on where you were playing:

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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