NJ Lobbies for Higher Penalties as PokerStars Pays $10k Fine

NJDGE fines PokerStars $10k for accepting illegal sports bets.

NJDGE Fines PokerStars $10k for Accepting Illegal Sports BetsThe New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) has spent the last six years regulating the most successful online gambling market in the United States. There have been ups and downs. There have been mistakes made, problems realized, and solutions conceived. Is this not to be expected when pioneering any market of such a volatile nature?

One thing gaming regulators in the Garden State have learned in recent times is that the penalties for non-compliance could have – nay, should have – been set a lot higher. That was the sentiment coming out of NJDGE offices last week when it was announced that one of their most prominent licensed operators had been fined just $10,000 for violating the state’s strict sports gambling laws.

PokerStars Fined $10k for Accepting Illegal Sports Bets

On April 12, 2019, David L. Rebuck, Director of the NJDGE, signed off on an order imposing a fine of $10,000 against TSG Interactive US Services Limited, better know by its d.b.a. name, PokerStars. The reason for the penalty was multiple violations of the state’s sports wagering laws, particularly in regard to wagering on collegiate sports involving teams from New Jersey.

The issue began in late 2018. On November 5, the DGE sent out an email warning the sportsbook of specific laws in regards to accepting sports wagers. On November 19, in what some might see as a blatant disregard for that warning, PokerStars accepted a total of 216 wagers, worth a total of $2,756.89, on a collegiate basketball game between the Eastern Michigan University Eagles and the Rutgers University Scarlett Kings. A complaint regarding these actions was filed in late December.

Then, on January 30, 2019, another complaint was lodged against PokerStars. This time, the sportsbook was accused of accepting a single wager of an undisclosed amount on another college basketball match, this time between Monmouth University Hawks and the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.

PokerStars Cancels Bets Pre-Game, Settles for $10k Fine

One reason PokerStars got off seemingly easy is because in both incidents, the operator was able to identify the error and cancel the illegal sports wagers, returning the bets to their rightful owners, prior to the start of the games in question.

In voiding the wagers prior to the games, PokerStars acknowledged that accepting the bets was a direct violation of New Jersey sports betting laws, settling the case with the NJDGE with what Director Rebuck found to be “sufficient legal and factual support for the recommended penalty” of $10,000.

NJDGE Lobbies for Increase in Recommended Penalties

Rebuck’s acquiescence to the $10k fine was based largely on the lawful recommendation of such an amount for PokerStars’s offense. The next time around – should there be a next time around – the guilty party may be subject to 2x, if not 10x, that penalty.

The state legislature is currently examining a bill that would increase the fine for accepting prohibited sports bets on New Jersey college athletics to a range of $20,000 to $100,000. That bill, introduced by Assemblymen (and former casino executive) Ralph Caputo, has yet to go before a full Assembly vote. That bill also recommends an additional fine equal to the number of illegal bets taken, plus a 10-day suspension of the operator’s license.

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