ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — New Jersey gambling regulators won't prosecute companies that help facilitate illegal Internet gambling if they knock it off within 150 days.
In an advisory bulletin last week, New Jersey Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck said his agency will not prosecute any company that promoted, marketed or directed New Jersey customers to illegal Internet betting sites after legal Internet gambling began here in November 2013, provided they cease such activity in the next five months. The same amnesty will apply to companies that helped facilitate Internet bets after passage of a 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling law.
"It is clear that those illegal online gaming sites who accept wagers from players in New Jersey pose a significant threat to the regulation of lawful gaming," Rebuck wrote.
He said Internet gambling companies that are licensed by New Jersey had to go through an elaborate, time-consuming process that included a thorough investigation of their business history, the functionality of their systems, and the "good character, honesty, integrity and financial stability" of their executives and principal owners — requirements that illegal sites do not have.
Licensed operators in New Jersey also have to implement procedures guarding against fraud, money laundering and underage gambling, and must comply with consumer protection laws regarding honest advertising and timely payouts.
Companies that continue to operate illegally risk prosecution and will not be approved for legal Internet gambling in New Jersey should they apply in the future.
George Rover, the deputy director of the gaming enforcement division, said "there are literally thousands" of Internet gambling affiliates that could be affected by New Jersey's decision to defer prosecution. If they don't comply, "any effort to become licensed in New Jersey will be forever gone."
New Jersey will share its determination that a particular company is unsuitable for licensing here with other states that either currently offer Internet gambling or may do so in the future. Rover said those states are likely to follow New Jersey's lead and refuse to license such a company.
Rover said the guidelines have "absolutely nothing" to do with PokerStars, the world's largest online poker site, which initially was excluded from New Jersey's online gambling market due to legal problems involving some of its officials.
Executives who were involved in PokerStars' acceptance of bets in the United States after the federal government made it illegal to take payments in connection with illegal gambling through the Internet are stepping down as part of the company's sale to Amaya Gaming. The website, which stopped doing business in the U.S. in 2011, paid a $547 million fine to the Justice Department, but didn't admit wrongdoing.
The PokerStars application to be licensed in New Jersey is still being reviewed.
Internet gambling is off to a slow start in New Jersey, one of three states that allow it, along with Nevada and Delaware. New Jersey casinos won $122 million from Internet customers in 2014, its first full year of operation.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC