NJ iGaming: Eight-Hour Real-Money Test Periods to Commence on Nov 21st

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This Thursday, New Jersey’s first wave of iGaming operators will open their virtual doors to a select group of invitees – at least for a few hours – during the state’s so-called “soft launch” period for online gambling.

In a statement given to the Press of Atlantic City, NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement spokeswoman Lisa Spengler revealed that during the first two days of testing (November 21st and 22nd), NJ’s regulated gaming sites will only be operational from the hours of 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., local time.

However, when the servers reopen at 8 a.m. on the 23rd they will remain up until the conclusion of the trial at midnight on the 25th – pending unexpected developments.

Soft launch period may be extended past Nov. 25

Throughout the critical trial period, online providers will be tasked with testing their player identification systems, payment processors, geolocation technology and otherwise ensuring that their software works as expected.

If all goes according to plan, the DGE will allow full-scale operations to inaugurate on the 26th.

DGE Director David Rebuck explained the purpose of the soft launch as follows: “The soft opening will be used to demonstrate to the division that all systems perform as required under the stress of live gaming and that operational and revenue reporting controls are effective.”

Should problems arise, the soft launch period may be extended beyond November 25th, thus delaying the public launch of NJ’s iGaming market.

The likely players

Last week, seven of Atlantic City’s 12 casino received transactional waivers, clearing them to initiate Internet gaming operations on the 21st (but not guaranteeing that they will). They are:

  • The Borgata
  • Bally’s
  • Caesars
  • Tropicana
  • Trump Plaza
  • Trump Maj Mahal
  • Golden Nugget

Two of Caesars Entertainment’s land-based casinos, Showboat and Harrah’s, have yet to receive waivers, as have Resorts and their online partner PokerStars.

New Jersey could suffer from a lackluster launch

Several factors are lining up that could dampen interest in NJ’s newly-christened iGaming market:

  • For the first 30 days after launch, promotions that incorporate a wagering requirement are prohibited. This might deter players  from making deposits until after Christmas. To read more about New Jersey’s initial promotional and bonus structure guidelines, go here.
  • Speaking of holidays, NJ’s iGaming sites are set to go live a mere two days before the start of the holiday season. This could be bad news for online casinos, as potential players may opt to spend their disposable income on presents and traveling rather than playing online poker. On the flip side, Thanksgiving weekend might prove an ideal time to launch iGaming, as most workers will have a four-day weekend.
  • The Borgata Fall Poker Open ends on November 27th, one day after iGaming goes public. This could prove disastrous, as some poker players would have spent their gambling budget  on live tournaments. Compounding matters, the opportunity for cross promotion between the Borgata’s brick and mortar and online poker rooms would be significantly higher if iGaming launched concurrently with the Open, not at its conclusion.
  • Depositing money may be more difficult than it should be at the outset.
  • There appears to be a fair amount of confusion among the general public surrounding launch.
- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several publications centered on legal US online poker and the regulated online gambling industries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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