New Jersey Ends Plans to Share Online Poker Player Pool with U.K.

Just over one year after announcing a tentative agreement to share online poker player pools with the United Kingdom, the state of New Jersey has declared the proposal dead.

That pronouncement comes from David Rebuck, who recently became the longest-serving Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE). During an interview with Roger Gros of Global Gaming Business News, Rebuck stated flatly that international player pool sharing wouldn’t happen as planned, because “we just couldn’t pull it off.”

Offering a more detailed explanation, Rebuck outlined the regulatory hurdles that prevented New Jersey from linking its online poker platforms with their U.K. counterparts:

“Our law is very restricted in that the gaming servers – the actual gaming servers that allow for the outcome of the game to be determined – have to be in Atlantic City, and that’s just not a business model that they were willing to adopt.

If those states will not allow their gaming servers for online gaming to be here, we really are kind of stuck, unless there is a legislative change. We’re not in a very strong position to effectuate liquidity with those restrictions.”

Under the 2013 law which authorizes online gambling in New Jersey, regulators there are free to form interstate compacts with other jurisdictions which have also legalized the industry. This provision isn’t limited to American states, which led New Jersey to enter into a preliminary player sharing agreement with the U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) in July of last year.

At the time, Rebuck told Global Gaming Business News that the plans were still in their embryonic stage at best, pointing out the complexity of issues which still needed to be sorted through:

“We’d still have to figure out lots of issues: specific regulations, how the tax rate from each jurisdiction would be applied, player ID and geolocation issues, and other things we probably haven’t even considered yet.

But you have to start somewhere.”

Fast forward to 2017, and Rebuck admitted that those issues proved to be a bridge too far:

“We tried. We have three common operators […] we actually had them in the dialogue and you know, the models that they wanted to implement that they felt would be in their business sense, I couldn’t do here in New Jersey.

There are a lot of factors involved in online gaming, and it’s just not a matter of flipping a switch and saying, ‘we’re going to turn on the Internet today.’”

The three common operators Rebuck mentioned are Amaya (which runs the PokerStars.nj platform), along with GVC (PartyPoker.nj), and 888 Holdings (888 Poker). With all three companies currently licensed by both the NJDGE and the UKGC, last year’s announcement regarding player pool sharing appeared to have firm footing.

But as Rebuck alluded to, the New Jersey State Constitution only allows gambling activity to be conducted within the Atlantic City jurisdiction. By maintaining online gambling servers within Atlantic City alone, the NJDGE ensures that its statewide iGaming industry remains constitutional.

The three common operators apparently balked at the topic of relocating gaming servers linked to U.K. platforms to Atlantic City.

Even so, Rebuck is already forging ahead with new plans to link New Jersey online poker player pools with Nevada and Delaware – the other two states which have regulated iGaming in recent years:

“We’re reopening our dialogue with Nevada, which has a compact already with Delaware. (But) if those states will not allow their gaming servers to be here, we’re kind of stuck.

Unless there’s a legislative change. We’re not in a strong position to effectuate liquidity with those restrictions … so we try our best to come to a resolution.”

Nevada and Delaware began sharing online poker player pools in March of 2015.