NJ Online Gambling List with Promo Codes for Free Money

New Jersey Online Casinos

New Jersey is the oldest and most mature market for legal online casino gambling in the US.

As a full-featured online gambling market, New Jersey has online poker and sports betting in addition to casino games. It also has by far the widest selection of online casinos anywhere in the US, with roughly 30 brands available to choose from and is the launching pad for most new online casinos in the US. There’s room for up to 45 in future.

What does all this mean for you, the player? It means that New Jersey is still the best and safest place in the US to enjoy some legal, real money online casino fun. Here, you’ll benefit from the most experienced regulator, the broadest selection of products, and the greatest number of competing operators, all of which makes it easier for you to find the site that’s right for you.

NJ online gambling promo codes for 2021

Rank
Casino
Bonus
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Play
1
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2
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6
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8
$20 Free
On Sign Up
$20 Free with No Deposit
100% Deposit Match up to $1,000
Live Dealer and Exclusive Games
Use Bonus Code: PLAYNJ

You don’t have to be a New Jersey resident to play at the state’s sites. You don’t even have to be present in the state to sign up for an account and make a deposit. The only thing that matters is your physical location when you’re actually making a bet. As long as you and your computer or mobile device are physically within the state’s borders, you’re good to go.

If that all sounds good and you’re ready to get into the action, here’s a quick rundown of our top picks for online casinos in the Garden State.

Best NJ online casino apps and sites

#1 Golden Nugget Online Casino NJ

Golden Nugget Online Casino was among the first wave of NJ online casinos to launch after the state legalized them in 2013. It was also the first to offer live dealer casino gaming, having invited Ezugi to build a studio at its property in 2016.

As a brand, it’s a rarity in the US iGaming space in that it focuses almost exclusively on the casino vertical. While most operators are splitting their attention between casino and sports betting, or focusing on the latter, Golden Nugget is a casino for casino players. It has one of the best selections of slots in the state, as well as some of the biggest progressive jackpots.

It’s also pretty friendly to players on a budget, with $10 and 200 free spins for new users, and lots of promotions that don’t require a huge volume of play to participate. Of course, more dedicated players are welcome too. For them, the casino offers a 100% first deposit match up to $1,500, and the Ultimate Rewards loyalty program.

#2 Tropicana Online Casino

If you want an online casino experience that’s truly unique to New Jersey, Tropicana Atlantic City Online is one of your options. Tropicana has stayed focused on its home state and hasn’t made an attempt to get into iGaming at the national level.

Tropicana is focused on casino games to the exclusion of all else. It has no sportsbook and no poker, just casino games. Compared to other casino-first companies, its game selection is decent but not huge.

However, it’s a great choice for casual players because it has some excellent promotional offers that don’t require a big outlay. High rollers may want to look elsewhere, but if you’re on a budget, “the Trop” is the way to go.

First, if you sign up with code PLAY25, you’ll get $25 free in site credit. This has only a one-time wagering requirement, but you’ll have to make a deposit of at least $10 before you can withdraw any winnings.

Additionally, the site gives you a full week of risk-free play up to $100. That’s a lower maximum than many similar offers, but also a longer time window, which makes it great for those just looking to get their feet wet. Best of all, any money you’ve lost at the end of that first week gets returned to you as cash, which you can withdraw right away if you want. There are also some other nice little bonuses which don’t require you to spend anything, like one free strip of 90 Ball Bingo tickets every half hour, for the chance to win some site credit.

As of 2020, Tropicana users are enrolled in the Caesars Rewards Program, as an added bonus.

#3 Virgin Online Casino

Virgin Online Casino is closely connected with, though not identical to Tropicana, as both use the same software from Gamesys.

One advantage of Virgin over Tropicana is a slightly larger signup bonus. With code 30BUCKS you’ll get just that: $30, rather than $25. The $100 week of risk-free play is identical. Virgin also has an ongoing rewards program, V*Points, which Tropicana lacked until recently.

#4 Caesars Online Casino and Sportsbook NJ

Caesars has been in the online casino game a long time, but recently got a makeover through its acquisition of William Hill. The new Caesars Online Casino and Sportsbook gives you the best of both worlds.

The casino portion of the Caesars product is known for its slots-heavy game selection. It has many table games as well, but with over 675 slots titles in New Jersey, you can play a long time without running out of new games to try out.

The rebranding has also been accompanied with a big marketing push, which means some nice bonuses on offer. Making a first deposit with code PLAY2021 will give you a 100% match up to $2,021. In addition to the high maximum, what’s nice about this offer are the reasonable wagering requirements, which are just 5x when playing slots, though that rises to 10x for video poker and 25x for table games.

Playing at Caesars also means accumulating Caesars Rewards points. The nice thing about this program is that it covers Caesars-owned retail properties (roughly 50 in the US), all the Caesars online verticals, other online casinos associated with Caesars (like Tropicana), and even WSOP Poker. That makes it a great choice if you dabble in many different forms of gambling and want a single loyalty program to cover all of them.

#5 BetMGM Casino NJ

If you believe in the wisdom of the crowd, then BetMGM Online Casino is the site for you. There’s a reason it’s the No. 1 online casino operator in the US: It has top-notch software, plus the M Life Rewards program which incorporates both online and retail play at MGM Resorts properties.

New BetMGM users will receive a 100% first deposit match up to $1,000, plus $25 in site credit provided they deposit a minimum of $10. The latter has a simple 1x wagering requirement, while the deposit match requires a heftier 15x playthrough. This is neither very stingy nor very generous compared to other operators. However, the BetMGM product itself is very solid, with an easy-to-use interface, exclusive games and a free play option for most titles so you can try them out before betting for real.

It’s also a full service online gaming company, with a single sign-in for casino, sportsbook, and BetMGM Poker, which is part of the Partypoker US Network.

#6 Unibet Casino NJ

Unibet offers a clean and simple casino experience, with an attached sportsbook.

The Unibet Casino signup bonus is a bit smaller than some of the other casinos. You’ll get $10 in site credit with a simple 1x wagering requirement, and a first deposit match up to $500 (or $750 with bonus code FREEBONUS), which has a 25x playthrough requirement. The good news on the latter front is that you have 30 days to do it, a fairly generous period of time.

There are a couple of places in which Unibet shines. Firstly, its parent company Kindred Group has been getting a lot of recognition in Europe for its commitment to responsible gaming, which is important in this industry. Second, it has a pretty good ongoing Game of the Week promotion which helps you discover new games and has affordable participation requirements. Each week, you’ll have a four-day period from Thursday to Sunday in which to wager at least $50 on a specified slots title. In return, you’ll get 20 free spins on a different slots game.

#7 FanDuel Casino NJ

Do you expect to be doing a lot of sports betting as well as casino gaming? If so, then FanDuel Casino is probably the right choice for you.

FanDuel has emerged as the top dog in the US when it comes to sports betting, and a top three casino operator. It’s known for having some of the best software in the business, but casino users aren’t its top priority, so it’s mostly a good pick if you’re planning on doing a lot of betting as well as using the casino.

Which welcome bonus you get for FanDuel depends on whether you sign up through the casino or the sportsbook. If you go through the casino, you’ll get a risk-free first day of play up to $1000. What this means is that a clock starts when you make your first wager. 24 hours later, if your balance is less than you started with, you’ll get reimbursed up to $1000. This comes in the form of site credit, so you’ll have to bet it again before withdrawing any winnings from it. The sportsbook offer works on a similar principle, but it’s a single risk-free bet up to $1000.

#8 Borgata Online Casino NJ

The Borgata is one of Atlantic City’s most famous retail casinos, and an equally popular online brand in its home state. Borgata Online Casino also holds the honor of having been the very first legal online casino in the US.

You may notice some similarities between Borgata and BetMGM, since they’re both part of the same company. They also share the same M Life Rewards program, and Borgata Poker is another skin on the same PartyPoker US Network as BetMGM Poker. The main difference you’ll find is in the game selection, so check out both and see which one has the games you prefer.

Borgata’s welcome bonus is similar to but slightly different from BetMGM’s. You’ll get $20 free on sign-up, plus a 100% first deposit match up to $1000, with a 15x playthrough requirement. Use bonus code PLAYNJ to claim these rewards.

NJ online gambling news

NJ online gambling no deposit bonuses: questions and answers

No deposit / free play bonuses are very common promotions at New Jersey’s online casino and poker sites, second in ubiquity only to the deposit match bonus. But because of the “free” aspect of the promotion, many players often have questions about the logic, fine print or validity of such offers.

Below, you’ll find answers to a handful of the most regularly asked questions about no deposit promotions.

Do I need a promo code to claim offers at NJ online casinos?

Generally speaking, no. If an NJ online casino promo code or bonus code is necessary to claim an offer, we will note the code in the description of that offer. But the majority of these offers are just standard opening bonuses at the casino or poker site and don’t require a special promotional code to claim.

In case you’re wondering, there’s no practical difference between a bonus code and a promo code. It’s just a different way of saying the same thing, and it varies from casino to casino.

So at some NJ online casinos, you’ll be putting in a bonus code. Other casino sites in New Jersey are going to ask you for a promo code. Either way, the point is the same: Bonus and promo codes can get you a better bonus. That means you should try to find one before signing up at one of New Jersey’s legal gambling sites.

Example: The public offer at Golden Nugget online casino is far less than the $10 free and the 100% up to $1,500 by using our promo code PLAYBONUS.

How can casinos afford to give money away?

No deposit bonuses are a marketing expense, like any other marketing expense. Casinos expect a certain value from each customer they bring through the door. So casinos are willing to spend right up to that value to bring customers through the door.

Casinos don’t really care if they’re spending that money on billboards, a new flashing sign, or customer promotions. All are marketing expenses from the view of the bottom line. And that’s how casinos afford to give money away to new players.

It also helps that the amounts involved tend to be small, and the terms of the offer prohibit players from simply cashing out the money right away.

Who qualifies for no deposit bonuses?

Generally speaking only new customers at a given NJ online casino qualify for the no deposit offer. If a casino has both poker and casino no deposit offers – like Borgata and 888 do – players are typically forced to choose one bonus or the other.

Some operators are more restrictive, only allowing one bonus per household address or device.

Is there any limit to how many no deposit bonuses I can get?

A casino usually only allows players to take advantage of a no deposit bonus a single time. But there’s nothing stopping players from taking advantage of no deposit bonuses at various casinos and poker rooms.

Most of NJ’s regulated online casinos and poker sites offer some sort of no deposit bonus. If you claimed them all, you’d be looking at hundreds of dollars in free play.

Can I just cash the bonus out right away?

No. Every online casino site in New Jersey attaches some sort of wagering or withdrawal requirement to prevent bonus abuse.

A typical requirement is that you wager the bonus money “x” number of times before you can cash out. For poker, the site might require you to pay a certain amount of rake before cashing out.

What information do I need to provide to create an online casino account in NJ?

To create an account at a regulated online casino or poker site in NJ, you will need to provide your name, address, and email address. You will also need to confirm your social security number.

You may also have to answer some questions to verify your identity. New Jersey regulations require all of this information.

One of these sites is asking me for my Social Security number. Should I provide it?

Only if you feel comfortable, but you will need to provide it to create a valid account at any New Jersey online casino or poker room.

Regulated online gambling sites are required by law to verify customer identity to prevent money laundering and other criminal abuses.

NJ online casino FAQ

Legal online gambling now over five years old in New Jersey. But players still have a healthy amount of questions about how these casinos work, who’s behind them, and what rules and agencies govern regulated online gambling websites in NJ.

Below we’ve collected answers to the questions readers ask us the most often about New Jersey’s legal online casino sites. Contact us if your question isn’t covered below.

Are you interested in poker? Refer to our extensive NJ online poker review / FAQ.

What do you mean when you say “legal” online casinos? What makes one legal and another illegal?

On Feb. 27, 2013, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that authorized the operation of regulated online casinos in the state.

The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement gave the go-ahead on Nov. 21, 2013, to approved operators to start offering online casino games and online poker games.

Only land-based casinos in Atlantic City – along with their licensed partners – are eligible to offer legal, regulated online casino and poker in New Jersey. The list of approved casinos (found above) is a relatively brief one, numbering just under a dozen.

Other online casinos may advertise themselves as legal, but they’re frankly not being honest with customers. The only legal online casinos operating in New Jersey are those licensed and approved by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

If you ever have a question about the legality of a specific online casino operating in NJ, contact the DGE: (609) 984-0909 / [email protected].

What are the key distinctions between legal online casinos and illegal ones?

There are any number of distinctions. For example, legal online casinos pay taxes on their revenue to the state, while New Jersey receives no such benefits from illegal casinos based offshore.

But from a consumer perspective, there are three key distinctions between legal and illegal online casinos in New Jersey.

1) Safety of funds

You have no guarantee that your funds are safe at an illegal online casino. It’s often quite difficult to tell what company is ultimately behind the casino. Several online casinos may advertise that other jurisdictions license them, but those licenses don’t make those casinos legal in NJ. And those licenses don’t provide the same protections to consumers.

That’s because NJ regulations require licensed online casinos to hold all player funds in secure accounts that are separate from the normal operational accounts of the company. These and other regulatory protections ensure that you know where your funds are, who is holding them and how to get them back if there’s a problem.

Bottom line: Your money is safer at a legal online casino.

2) Security of personal information

Without regulations to require the casino to safeguard your personal information and the threat of a regulator who has ability to crack down on operators, illegal online casinos have little incentive to protect your data.

That includes the credit card or other banking information you provide to deposit. When you play at an offshore online casino, you simply can’t be sure that your information will be handled securely.

Bottom line: Your information is safer at legal online casinos.

3) Fairness of games

All casino games favor the house.

But at an illegal online casino, you have no idea if the deck is square or if the slot reels have been rigged to prevent some outcomes and encourage others. You also have no guarantee that the casino will pay you if you do go on a lucky run and ring up a big win.

At New Jersey’s legal online casinos, games are subject to the same testing and oversight as the slot machines on the floor at the Borgata or Golden Nugget. If you’re the lucky few to hit an online jackpot in NJ, the casino will pay you just like they would on an actual casino floor in Atlantic City.

Bottom line: You have no idea whether illegal online casinos offer fair games.

How online gambling sites regulated in New Jersey

Who is responsible for oversight of online gambling in NJ?

Oversight of regulated online gambling in New Jersey is the responsibility of the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement or the DGE. Learn more about what the DGE does here.

The DGE is also responsible for regulating the multi-billion dollar land-based gambling industry in New Jersey, an industry centered in Atlantic City.

Appropriately, that’s also the city the DGE (located at 1300 Atlantic Avenue Atlantic City, NJ 08401) calls home.

Does New Jersey have an online lottery?

Somewhat surprisingly, the New Jersey Lottery is not among those that sells its products online or offers instant digital games. Such products often precede full-fledged iGaming, but since New Jersey launched online casinos first, there may be pressure from the casinos not to allow the lottery to compete with them directly.

You can, however, buy draw tickets online legally. This isn’t through the lottery’s own website, however, but rather through the third party service Jackpocket, which has received permission to operate in the state.

Who can get a license?

There are two levels of licensing related to regulated online gambling in New Jersey:

  1. Internet Gaming Permits: This is the top level of online gambling licensure. You cannot operate a legal online casino in New Jersey without that online casino being attached to an IGP permit. And only licensed land-based casinos in NJ are eligible to even apply for an IGP.
  2. Casino Service Industry Enterprise License: This is the level of licensure directly below IGP’s. You’d need this license to serve as a platform provider, game provider, or similar function in the market.

How do licenses work?

Here’s an example of how it works in practice.

  • A land-based casino like the Tropicana applies for an IGP.
  • They then can choose to develop their platform and content in-house or work with external partners. In Tropicana’s case, they chose to partner with Gamesys, who operate several licensed gambling sites in other regulated markets like the United Kingdom.
  • If a casino chooses an external partner, that partner is required to apply for CSIE approval.
  • Once all of the approvals are secured, the casino can legally offer online gambling to consumers under several distinct brands – up to five under New Jersey regulations.

For their part, Tropicana and Gamesys currently offer two brands:

What rules govern the operation of an online casino in NJ?

You can find the merged regulations covering legal online gambling in New Jersey here.

In addition to the regulations specifically dealing with online casinos, all of the legal gambling websites in New Jersey are subject to the general regulations governing the gambling industry in the state.

What do I do if I have a dispute with a regulated online New Jersey casino?

The NJ DGE has a process by which consumers can open a formal dispute with a licensed online casino.

  1. Customers must first contact the casino with their issue.
  2. Customers can then file a dispute form with the DGE.
  3. The DGE will assist with any questions you may have when completing the form.

Get complete details here.

What kind of protections are in place for problem gambling?

If you have questions about problem gambling, please visit the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Different online casinos in NJ offer deposit limits and other mechanisms to limit your online gambling activity.

New Jersey regulators provide an online self-exclusion form that players can use to quickly block access to all of New Jersey’s regulated online casinos. You do not have to admit to having a gambling problem to utilize the self-exclusion form, which takes under a minute to complete.

Access the self-exclusion form here.

NJ online casino gameplay FAQs

What games are available at NJ’s online casinos?

The game selection at NJ’s legal online casinos is in many ways quite similar to the game selection on the floor of an Atlantic City Casino. In all, there are hundreds of games spread across the regulated online gambling sites in NJ, including:

  • Table games: Classic casino offerings such as blackjack, roulette, craps, and baccarat, in both digital form and via the Live Dealer format (more on this below).
  • Slots: A mix of branded titles from providers like IGT and High 5 along with proprietary titles from suppliers like Amaya. Progressives and standard games available.
  • Video poker: Over a dozen unique variants are available at NJ online casinos, including casino standards like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild.

One thing that is different about the online gaming experience is the stakes involved. You can play many games for pennies to quarters (and not the penny games that end up being a few dollars a slot pull – actual pennies). That includes games like Blackjack where the minimum bet in a land-based casino would usually be at least $5.

What are live dealer games, and how can I play them?

Live Dealer is the latest game variant to reach the NJ online casino market, having debuted in August 2016. At its core, the format is an attempt to bridge the gap between online and live gambling.

The playing devices used to determine game outcomes are real, the dealers are real, but all wagering happens digitally. And just like digitized table games, Live Dealer can be played from any home computer or Android/iOS-powered mobile device.

Casinos stream Live Dealer games in real-time from a live casino studio setting. This game type opens the door for players to chat live with dealers (and other players), and even tip them immediately following a favorable result.

Which NJ online casinos offer Live Dealer casino games?

The first online casino in New Jersey to offer Live Dealer games was the Golden Nugget. The casino remains a leader in the format today.

To partake in Live Dealer games at Golden Nugget, simply navigate to the Golden Nugget Casino lobby, click the “Live Dealer” tab and choose a table. If a seat is open, hop right in, and place a wager just as you would at any other online table game.

A number of other online casino sites in New Jersey have added Live Dealer over the last few years. The current list of casinos with Live Dealer games follows below:

  • 888
  • BetAmerica
  • Betfair
  • Borgata
  • DraftKings
  • Hard Rock
  • Mohegan Sun
  • PartyCasino
  • playMGM
  • PokerStars
  • Resorts
  • SugarHouse

The kinds of live dealer games you can play vary from casino to casino. Here is a list of the games that are generally available:

  • 2 Hand Casino Hold’em
  • 3 Card Brag
  • American Blackjack
  • American Roulette
  • Auto Roulette
  • Baccarat
  • Baccarat Dragon Jackpot
  • Blackjack
  • Blackjack $15-$2K
  • Blackjack $50 – $2k
  • Blackjack $50-$2K
  • Caribbean Stud Poker
  • Casino Floor Roulette
  • Casino Hold’em
  • Dragon Bonus Baccarat
  • Dragon Tiger
  • Dream Catcher
  • Dual Play Roulette
  • Free Bet Blackjack
  • High Limit Blackjack
  • Infinite Blackjack
  • Lightning Dice
  • Lightning Roulette
  • Monopoly
  • No Commission Baccarat
  • PokerStars Roulette
  • Roulette
  • Roulette Multi View
  • Roulette Static View
  • Side Bet City
  • Slingshot Roulette
  • Stars Texas Hold’em
  • Stars Tricia
  • Super Sic Bo
  • Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker
  • Three Card Poker
  • UFC Blackjack
  • UFC Roulette
  • Ultimate Texas Hold’em
  • Unlimited 21 Blackjack Auto Split
  • Unlimited Blackjack

How is an online slot machine different from the slots I play at the casino?

More connects than separates the two. For example:

  • Many of the same popular titles at land-based casinos are available online. For example, Caesars offers familiar titles like Quick Hit Platinum, Davinci Diamonds, Hot Shot, and Monopoly at their online casino.
  • The same well-known game manufacturers – like ShuffleMaster (SHFL) and IGT – power many of the online games available at NJ’s legal online casinos just as they do on the floors of Atlantic City’s terrestrial casinos.
  • Modern slot machines at physical casinos are generally all-digital – the physical reels of the classic one-armed bandit are quickly becoming a thing of the past. In those situations, the online version of the slot and the casino version of the slot are basically identical (save the physical cabinet housing the game).
  • Both live and real money slot games go through a similar testing process at the DGE’s Technical Services Bureau. For more insight into how regulators test games before being approved for online play, see this feature from OPR.

Do NJ’s online casinos offer mobile play?

Most major online casinos in New Jersey’s regulated market offer a mobile casino app. See our table comparing the legal online casinos in NJ for more information.

Does anyone actually win at these games?

Everyone knows that in the casino, the house always wins over the long run. The same applies at online casinos – all of the games are built to favor the house, and no player can beat the casino over time.

So the question is more about whether or not the online games are fair in that they provide the product they advertise. For example, do their big progressive slots and other large-ticket jackpot games ever payout?

Two examples – including a $1.3 million winner at Harrah’s and a $1.5 million winner at Betfair – make it clear that players have no reason to doubt the credibility of NJ’s legal online gambling sites.

Can I earn comps at online casinos in NJ?

Do rewards programs cross over into land-based rewards?

This varies by casino, but more and more of the online casinos in New Jersey’s regulated market are attempting to build bridges between their live casino and their online product.

Many rewards programs at online casinos allow you to earn points that players can use in the land-based rewards program.

For example, Caesars’ online casino allows players to earn Caesars Rewards points for online play just as you would at any of Caesars’ land-based properties. Your Caesars Rewards account for the online casino is the same as the account you use at the live casinos. That means you can also use the points you earn at the online casino for land-based comps.

At a minimum, any legal online casino in NJ will offer a rewards program that players can use for cashback and other rewards within the online casino system.

Can I earn free rooms at casinos by playing at online casinos?

Promotions at online casinos are constantly evolving. It’s certainly not uncommon to see a promotion that involves some sort of comped room or entertainment at one of the Atlantic City casinos that operate online sites.

A big part of the long-term plan for online gambling in New Jersey is that it will support the land-based casino industry. How? The idea is that online gambling will give more customers more reasons to interact with the casino.

And online gambling should help land-based casinos better understand what it is their customers want through increased opportunities for consumer feedback and interaction.

View a list of opening bonuses at NJ online casinos.

New Jersey legal casino sites: Economic impact on New Jersey

Do these sites pay taxes?

Yes. Regulated NJ online casinos do pay taxes to the state of New Jersey, unlike offshore casinos who pay no tax. The tax rate on gross gaming revenue (basically the casino win) is 17.5%.

In 2014, the first full year of regulated online gambling in New Jersey, the state’s legal online casinos paid over $18 million in taxes. In 2015 they paid over $22 million in taxes and in 2016 legal online casinos paid taxes totaling more than $29 million to the state of New Jersey.

How much revenue do regulated online gambling websites make?

The amounts vary by operator and change from month to month. But the average for the first year was for poker and casino combined to generate about $10-$12 million per month in revenue total across all of the state’s regulated online casinos.

You can find complete NJ online gambling historical revenue data at PlayNJ.com in tabular form.

Now that New Jersey has won its sports betting case, will it be able to offer online sports betting?

New Jersey passed a law in 2014 that would legalize Nevada-style sports betting in the state. It was the second attempt at legalizing sports gambling at tracks at Atlantic City casinos. The sports leagues prevailed after they challenged the 2012 attempt in federal court. The case was then heard en banc in the Federal Court of Appeals before the Supreme Court heard it of the United States in December 2017.

SCOTUS publicized its decision on the case on May 14, 2018, striking down PASPA and handing NJ a major victory.

History of gambling in New Jersey

New Jersey has a long history, and gambling has been a part of it since the beginning.

Pre-Prohibition (1800s and earlier)

In the early days of the state, there weren’t any laws about gambling one way or another. It was commonplace, but not very organized for the most part. However, private lotteries organized by financiers played an important role in funding the construction of infrastructure during this period.

Such lotteries were banned in 1844. At the same time, however, horse racing began to establish itself. Freehold Raceway was built in the 1830s and is the country’s oldest racetrack still in existence today. The racing was informal at first, but became officially sanctioned in 1854. A second racetrack, Monmouth Park, appeared in 1870.

Prohibition Era (1894-1938)

Towards the end of the 19th century, things were trending in the opposite direction. Throughout the country, support was growing for the prohibition of “vices” such as sex work, alcohol and gambling.

It wasn’t until 1920 that the infamous nationwide ban on alcohol came into effect. By that time, however, state-level anti-vice initiatives had been underway for decades. New Jersey began by banning parimutuel horse wagering in 1894. Legislators then followed up with an 1897 constitutional amendment banning all forms of gambling.

The outright prohibition of gambling in the state lasted for more than four decades. As with the federal prohibition on alcohol, however, it didn’t prevent anyone from enjoying the vice in question; it merely prevented them from doing so legally.

Prohibition-era New Jersey was notorious for its speakeasies. Illegal slot machines, numbers games and bookies flourished during this period.

Legalization (1939-1969)

Nationwide alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, and attitudes towards gambling were relaxing somewhat as well. Even anti-vice groups were beginning to realize that strict prohibition was backfiring, as it fueled a surge in organized crime.

In 1939, New Jersey amended its constitutional gambling ban slightly, and passed a law to re-legalize its racetracks. A further amendment in 1947 added a provision allowing the state to pass new gambling laws by way of public referendum, a requirement that persists to this day. In 1953, that led to a law permitting charitable organizations to run raffles and host bingo events for the purposes of fundraising.

The Rise of Atlantic City (1970-1991)

In the latter half of the 20th century, New Jersey began to look at the potential for gambling as a source of tax revenue. It created its state lottery in 1970, by way of a landslide referendum in which 81.5% of voters were in favor. A few years later, in 1975, it would become the first legal lottery to allow players to pick their own numbers.

A 1974 effort to authorize casinos statewide failed, but two years later, in 1976, a bill passed allowing them in Atlantic City only. The dream was to produce a gambling destination equivalent to Las Vegas, but for east coast residents. The first casino, Resorts, opened in 1978.

In the 1980s, Atlantic City looked like it might achieve its ambitions. For a time, it became a top vacation destination, due in large part to the promotional efforts of Donald Trump and Mike Tyson, who managed to make it the center of the professional boxing world during that period.

After the Honeymoon (1992-2005)

That success proved temporary, however, and by the 1990s Atlantic City was already suffering a downturn. Urban problems that had gone unaddressed were resurfacing. Around the same time, Las Vegas was in the process of cleaning up its image, while Connecticut and Pennsylvania were building casinos of their own.

New Jersey missed a huge opportunity in 1992. That year, the federal government passed PASPA, which banned sports betting nationwide but allowed states with a casino industry a one-year window in which to pass their own laws which would be exempt from that prohibition.

That grandfather clause was specifically intended to throw a bone to Atlantic City amidst its struggles. Had New Jersey seized the chance, it would have made it Atlantic City the only place outside of Nevada where one could bet legally on sports. However, the state let that window of opportunity close without passing such a bill.

2006

In 2006, the US federal government passed the Unauthorized Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which attempted to shut down offshore internet gambling, particularly online poker, which was in its heyday. Some companies, like PartyPoker, elected to comply, while others like PokerStars continued to serve US customers and find ways to work around the law.

2009

Through the first decade of the 21st century, the US economy was struggling and Atlantic City’s woes grew worse. The state of New Jersey was regretting its decision not to legalize sports betting when it had the chance.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak filed a lawsuit in 2009 to challenge PASPA. However, it was thrown out of court on the basis that only the Governor could bring such a suit. The Governor at the time was Chris Christie, who refused to do so because he felt the challenge would fail.

2011

On April 15, 2011, known as Black Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) seized several prominent poker sites including PokerStars, Full Tilt and Ultimate Bet, and brought charges against their owners. Overnight, countless players found their access blocked and their account balances in limbo.

This marked the end of the gray market era of US online gambling. After Black Friday, there was a clear distinction between illegal, black market offshore sites, and state-level efforts at legalization.

One such effort was already underway, thanks again to Sen. Lesniak. In January, he had sponsored a Senate bill to legalize online gambling. It was in this bill that the idea originated of tying online gambling to land-based casinos and using geolocation technology in order to avoid running afoul of federal laws.

The bill passed, but Governor Christie chose to veto it. That decision was a significant setback for online gambling in New Jersey and the US in general, but only a temporary one.

That November, the state held a referendum on sports betting. As they had in the lottery referendum four decades earlier, New Jersey residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposed gambling expansion. It was inevitable, however, that following through with sports betting would be more difficult due to PASPA.

2012

In 2012, New Jersey complied with its voters’ mandate to pass a sports betting bill. As expected, the new law faced an immediate legal challenge due to PASPA. As a result, it would still be many years before the state could actually go ahead with its plans.

Aligning themselves against New Jersey on the issue were the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and four professional sports leagues: the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.

2013

In 2013, New Jersey lawmakers passed a second online gambling bill. It was similar to the 2011 bill, but included provisions to address the concerns which had caused Gov. Christie to veto that first effort. For instance, it created a separate, higher tax rate for online gambling, and prohibited advertising it outside of Atlantic City.

The bill passed with overwhelming support, and received the governor’s approval. The first online casino and NJ poker sites began launching in November that year. Notably absent from the early online poker scene in New Jersey was PokerStars. Its behavior between the passage of the UIGEA and the events of Black Friday resulted in the DGE slapping it with a two-year ban from the market.

Meanwhile, the battle between the state and the sports leagues was in appeals. It made it as far as the Third Circuit, which ruled against the state, 2-1. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

2014-2016

Sports betting went back to the drawing board in 2014. New Jersey legislators crafted and passed a new gambling bill, taking into account some aspects of the Third Circuit court’s ruling in the hopes that they’d fare better on the second attempt. Once again, the NCAA and professional sports leagues challenged the decision.

In November, the courts once again ruled against the state, and appeals began anew. Things continued to go badly for the state, however, and it looked as if New Jersey’s quest for sports betting would fail.

In the meantime, the temporary ban for PokerStars had expired. The company had also distanced itself from former owner Isai Scheinberg, who still had an outstanding federal indictment against him. Now owned by publicly-traded Canadian company Amaya, PokerStars received permission to launch its New Jersey poker room in 2016 and make its much-anticipated US return.

Also in 2016, Ezugi opened the first live dealer studio in the US, at Golden Nugget Casino.

2017

The pivotal moment for US sports betting came in 2017 when the US Supreme Court finally agreed to hear the PASPA case in June. This went on for months, with closing arguments held in December that year.

While the PASPA battle raged on, online casino revenues continued to grow at a rapid pace. In the meantime, New Jersey elected to deal with the question mark hovering over daily fantasy sports.

That November, Gov. Christie signed a deal with Nevada and Delaware, allowing New Jersey poker sites to start sharing player pools with those states. WSOP/888, as the only operator with sites in those other states, took advantage of the deal the following year, creating a three-state network with New Jersey in May 2018.

2018

The Supreme Court returned its decision in May 2018, siding 6-3 with New Jersey. It declared PASPA unconstitutional and struck the law down, kicking off a new era in US gambling history.

Despite not knowing how the case would turn out, the DGE and online gambling operators had things all ready to go in the case of a victory. It took only a month from the time the ruling was announced until sports betting was ready to launch. In June, the state passed a new, more detailed sports betting bill, and sportsbooks opened their doors and began taking bets almost immediately.

Evolution opened its first US live dealer studio in August 2018 and acquired its rival Ezugi shortly thereafter, forming an effective monopoly on live dealer casino games in the state.

2019

Following years of rapid, unpredictable legal developments, New Jersey’s gambling industry finally started to settle into its new groove in 2019. Many new operators entered the market, both for online casino and sports betting. The DGE also granted approval for betting on an eSports contest for the first time.

2020

The gambling industry faced disruption on the global scale in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. Atlantic City casinos, like those across the country, closed their doors in March. Online casino and poker became more important than ever during this time, although sports betting revenue suffered due to the cancellation of all major sports.

Bally’s Atlantic City was sold to Twin River Worldwide Holdings, along with the Bally’s name. The company took on the name as its own and changed its stock ticker to BALY. Up until this point, the Bally’s AC online casino license had been unused, so the ownership change opened up a new path to market access for additional brands.

2021

New online casino launches, including those on the new Bally’s license, brought the state total to around 30 brands, miles ahead of any other state.

Late in the year, New Jersey held a referendum to repeal the prohibition on sports bets involving in-state college teams. That referendum was voted down, however, and has led to speculation that New Jerseyans have cooled on the idea of further gambling expansion in the short term

- John is a writer for multiple online poker publications and is the author of the popular Online Poker Payment Processing Report. Read more from John by following @John_Mehaffey on Twitter.
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