New Jersey entered the Internet gambling industry Thursday night as soft play began across the state — sort of.
The launch was not without issues, as users encountered error messages in some cases informing them that they were not located in the state, even though they were well within New Jersey’s borders.
Others saw holdups as they tried to load money onto accounts, and some sites initially would not load at all.
Kyle Lockerd was able to access borgatapoker.com almost immediately, but more than two hours after the testing period began, he was still blocked from play. After sending in two forms of identification, the 29-year-old playing from Ventnor said he was told he was not located in New Jersey and could not participate.
“(I) will say for the few minutes it let me in, it looked well-designed and easy to navigate,” Lockerd said.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement on Thursday gave approvals for all seven Atlantic City casinos that been issued Internet gambling permits to begin a soft play trial period. Golden Nugget Atlantic City was initially left off the list in what General Manager Tom Pohlman called a “non-issue” over report formatting.
Within hours, Golden Nugget was added to the list, joining Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Caesars Atlantic City, Bally’s Atlantic City, Tropicana Casino and Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. Golden Nugget will offer Internet gambling through its own brand using Bally Technologies while the other six casinos have partnered with Internet gambling companies.
In all, 17 websites were approved to begin operations through the seven casinos. Each casino can create as many as five websites under a single license.
Al Flores attempted to log in to several sites from South River, Middlesex County. He received an error message on a Borgata site, and could not get a link to work for ucasino.com offered by Ultimate Gaming. The company apologized for difficulties on its Twitter account and later posted a working link.
Flores, 35, got the furthest when logging into WSOP.com run by 888 Holdings, which has teamed with Bally’s Atlantic City. More than an hour into the process, he was still waiting for his driver’s license to be approved.
Jim DeFrancesco, of Ship Bottom, also found himself frustrated after more than 21/2 hours spent trying to sign up with HarrahsCasino.com. He created an account but was told the website would not accept several credit cards.
Regulators have acknowledged that there may be bumps in the road as play begins, and several banks have said they will not authorize online gambling transactions, despite New Jersey’s law allowing Internet gambling.
Similar difficulties with location and authentication services were reported when Nevada began online poker operations earlier this year.
Officials have also stressed the importance of authentication procedures that will ensure that players are located within New Jersey’s borders and are of legal gambling age.
“The soft opening will be used to demonstrate to the Division (of Gaming Enforcement) that all systems perform as required under the stress of live gaming and that operational and revenue reporting controls are effective,” Division Director David Rebuck said. “Staff will continually assess the progress of each platform provider before allowing them to open gaming to the general public on Nov. 26.”
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
Follow Jennifer Bogdan on Twitter @ACPressJennifer