AVP Weekly - New Jersey Soft-Launches Real-Money Play and More

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Author Jennifer Newell's poker week in review for Nov. 18-24.

Our consolidation of the week's news is quick and to the point — seven stories, to be exact — for the week ending Nov. 24. Let's go.

No. 1 — New Jersey Begins Online Gaming Soft Launch

The much-anticipated launch of online gambling kicked off Nov. 21 with a testing period for the sites awarded the permits to participate. There were 17 sites offering New Jersey online gaming to pre-registered or invited customers only, and seven of them included online poker. PartyPoker was one of the sites that immediately went into testing mode, sharing its player pool with Borgata. Caesars' 888 and WSOP launched, as did UltimatePoker and UCasino.

As for poker only, the full list of permitted online rooms and partnering networks is PartyPoker.com and BorgataPoker.com, Ongame with GoldenNuggetPoker.com and BetfairCasino.com, All American Poker Network with 888.com, WSOP.com using 888 software, and UltimatePoker.com.

Most sites launched for the initial eight-hour testing period on Nov. 21, and another one on the following day. More testing occurred over the weekend, all to determine proper operations and obtain final authorization from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to go live on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

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No. 2 — The Curious Case of Golden Nugget in New Jersey

Reports surfaced on the morning of Nov. 21 that Golden Nugget Atlantic City was not going to be allowed to participate in the test launch of online gambling in New Jersey. Though initial approval was given to 13 gambling websites in total, and Golden Nugget was included, the news continued to change regarding the site. It was not authorized, then it was given a late go-ahead, according to the Associated Press.

By Friday morning, GoldenNuggetPoker.com was removed from the authorized list again, per the state's Division of Gaming Enforcement. Though the site went live for a time the night before, no real-money action was allowed for players. According to Pokerfuse, Golden Nugget obtained another late approval and is expected to be testing the site for real money play over the weekend. No reasons had been given for the delays or confusion.

No. 3 — Initial Problems with New Jersey Online Gaming Sites

As happened with online poker in Nevada, the New Jersey online gaming websites experienced a great deal of problems upon their soft launches. The primary issue for many players was location verification. Geolocation programs used to ensure that players are located within the state of New Jersey were not always accurate, as many players on poker forums complained of their IPs located in another state, resulting in a denial of their accounts. Another problem identified before the launch was that players along the state borders may not be able to obtain verification, and that was the case for many players during the testing period.

The other significant problem was the use of remote programs on their computers. Players had to close remote programs in order to access the online gaming sites, but there was no clear list of what those remote programs might be. Sites participating in the launch were available to players to assist in locating those programs, and many players were given free money with which to gamble on the sites once their problems were resolved.

No. 4 — Caesars' Last-Minute Approval in New Jersey

Caesars Interactive Entertainment applied for permits to operate online gaming in New Jersey but wasn’t allowed to plead its case until Nov. 20, the day before the soft launch. The state's Division of Gaming Enforcement held a public hearing to allow the company's CEO, Mitch Garber, to explain his and Caesars' suitability to operate in the state, especially following the denial of a land-based casino license in Massachusetts earlier in the month.

The hearing went well, as Garber was found to be honest about his past with online gaming companies that previously operated in the United States without permission from the U.S. government, as he testified that he had no knowledge that the companies were breaking the law. As a result of the positive hearing, Caesars was granted permits for Caesars and Bally's to operate in New Jersey, with Caesars using the 888 software for WSOP.com.

No. 5 — New Jersey Senator Introduces Gaming Expansion Bill

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak announced his intention to introduce a bill to the New Jersey legislature that would allow overseas companies to host their offshore gambling enterprises in Atlantic City. While the companies would not be allowed to offer services to United States customers per the current federal laws, the sites would be able to host their servers in New Jersey and license them through its Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The benefit for New Jersey would be a 10 percent tax on winnings for players on those sites, which would be made in exchange for the licenses. Lesniak is certain that companies would want a New Jersey-based license due to the strict regulations that the state has developed for its beginning online gaming industry and its long-respected land-based casinos. The money could raise as much as $20 million per year for the state's coffers, and it would be used to help the struggling horse-racing industry.

No. 6 — Update on Full Tilt Remissions for U.S. Players

Several developments have occurred over the past week or so with respect to Full Tilt Poker remissions payments for U.S.-based players. The first came from the Garden City Group, which announced that Full Tilt Red Pros, as well as former Full Tilt affiliates, can file a claim for their money. They were also given a 30-day extension to do so. Members of Team Full Tilt, however, were still not eligible for any part of the claims process.

Meanwhile, players who filed claims with Garden City Group regarding undisputed balances were notified that they can expect payments by Mar. 31, 2014. Those with disputed balances or multiple petitions may have to wait longer for analysis of their petitions, but those with no issues will be paid electronically via ACH to their bank accounts during the first quarter of 2014.

No. 7 — U.S. Government Examines Virtual Currency, Bitcoin Prices Soar

A United States Congressional committee hosted a hearing last week on virtual currencies with a heavy focus on bitcoin. "Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises of Virtual Currencies" offered testimony from a range of supporters and detractors, but the overall tone seemed to reflect the need for the U.S. government to enact some type of regulation to oversee the emerging popularity of bitcoin and others.

The price of bitcoin subsequently soared to several hundred dollars per bitcoin, versus the rate of $60-$65 earlier this year. Because of the rise, sites like online poker's SealswithClubs, one of many that only accept bitcoin as currency, saw a rise in participation. Pokerfuse reported that SealswithClubs more than doubled its cash-game traffic since September.

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