PokerStars Sports Book Receives Largest Fine to Date in New Jersey

Legalized sports betting in the state of New Jersey is still in its infancy. In these early months, it’s important for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) to make sure the rules are being followed by all gambling providers, land-based or online.

In the UK, the UK Gambling Commission does a wonderful job of monitoring the flow of gambling activities with the region’s confines. Any provider wishing to provide access to UK residents has to follow the rules or suffer the consequences in the form of a significant fine or delicensing. This is exactly the reason why UK online gamblers are left with so many UK casinos to choose from when looking for a new online casino. Casinos want to operate where the playing field is fair and level.

The importance of following rules in the gambling industry has certainly been clear to the PokerStars organization. Just this past week, it was announced that PokerStars in the USA had been slapped with a $10,000 USD penalty for taking illegal wagers through its BetStars sports book (New Jersey). The illegal wagers were placed on amateur sports games that involved teams located within the state’s boundaries. The fine was the largest handed down to date related to sports betting activities. Note: Sports betting has been legal in NJ since late is 2018.

Specifically, there were at least two infractions. The biggest infraction occurred in November of 2018. There was a college basketball game involving the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Eastern Michigan. Rutgers University is located in the state of New Jersey. A total of 219 wagers, totaling just under $3,000, were accepted on the game. That’s a no-no based on the state’s sports betting laws. The second infraction occurred in December 2018 when BetStars accepted one wager on a college basketball game between Monmouth University, a New Jersey school, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Clearly, the amounts wagered in these cases are not really material. However, the integrity of sports betting in New Jersey is under scrutiny by legislative opponents, who were never in favor of allowing sports betting in the first place. By levying the fine, the NJDGE has made clear it intends to follow the letter of the law.

PokerStars acknowledges it made the mistakes. All illegal wagers were voided, and refunds issued prior to the start of either game. It’s a positive sign the PokerStars organization had checks and balances in place to detect such problems. In an email released to the Press of Atlantic City, Stars Group senior vice president Matt Primeaux stated:

“We generally don’t comment on regulatory matters like these, but we had a manual gating error from our international games into New Jersey. We cooperated with the DGE as we always do, have learnt from the problem, and are confident it won’t reoccur.”

Going forward, gambling providers can expect to see larger fines being issued. Currently, New Jersey lawmakers are looking at legislating minimum fines of somewhere between $20,000 and $100,000 for similar first-time infractions.