The United States online poker market is in its infancy. While other states may join the fray in the coming years, only three states offer the games so far, and they have become the models used by supporters to promote the industry. Advocates for expanded online poker can point to states like New Jersey as a representation of positive traits, such as additional revenue, job creation, and a safe, protected, and regulated arena for consumers.
PokerStars only launched in New Jersey in the spring of 2016 but experienced first-hand how strict the regulations and tough the license approval process with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. But PokerStars was serious about reentering the US market with its new reputation, and New Jersey wanted the PokerStars name in the mix.
Less than a year into its return to America, however, PokerStars NJ incurred a fine for a software flaw related to geolocation, which restricts customers to locations within the borders of New Jersey. And there is simply no room for error.
Amaya Incurs Expensive Civil Penalty
The Division of Gaming Enforcement Director “issued an order pursuant to a stipulation of settlement imposing a $25,000.00 civil penalty against Amaya US Services Limited for violation of geolocation rules.” The actual civil action order revealed that some customers not physically located in New Jersey were able to wager on its site due to a software flaw, which reportedly happened for a “short period of time before a subsequent geolocation check detected such patrons and blocked them from wagering.”
With proof that PokerStars did upgrade its software with a fix for the flaw, the issue was closed, and Amaya was ordered to pay the $25K as a penalty for the error.
Mistakes happen. Software contains bugs that require a solution. Life goes on.
And with all due respect to PokerStars, the company detected the error on its own and fixed it. According to the DGE documents, it was a secondary geolocation check that detected the players and the software bug, which allowed the company to create a fix and install it with the required urgency.
All Eyes on New Jersey
As lobbying organizations like the Poker Players Alliance promote online poker in other states, New Jersey is used as an example of how safe and positive the games can be. It is the largest of the three states in the market thus far, and the DGE has regulated it remarkably well. States considering legalizing online poker, such as New York and Pennsylvania, look to New Jersey as an example of the high standards being set.
Other eyes are on the New Jersey market as well, as online poker opponents look for any mistakes to substantiate their claims that online gambling is unsafe, that the technology does not work, and that customers are in danger. While the overwhelming evidence shows otherwise, opponents will seize upon any errors and blow them out of proportion.
It is with this in mind that the online poker companies in America, especially those in New Jersey, must strive for perfection. While it seems that they come very close, mistakes like the recent software flaw are costly, not just for Amaya with its $25K fine, but for lobbyists and online poker proponents who must hope that they can counter arguments about the mistake with facts that corroborate the positives of the industry. And while it should only matter that it was a backup geolocation program that caught the error in the first place, the slip-up is an issue that complicates the overall argument.
There will be mistakes. Technology is not flawless, and the humans that operate it are not perfect. But at this stage of the game and with an entire industry on the line, it is even more important that errors are avoided at all costs. Fans and players are depending on it.