New Jersey Agency Penalizes PokerStars for 217 Illegal Bets on In-State Teams

Posted on: April 22, 2019, 01:17h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2019, 03:53h.

New Jersey officials fined PokerStars $10,000 for accepting wagers involving two Garden State universities — as sporting betting is becoming increasingly popular.

Rutgers University Guard Geo Baker and his teammates were improperly bet on leading to the sports betting company getting a $10,000 fine from New Jersey officials. (Image: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

PokerStars took 216 wagers, equaling over $2,756, on a Nov. 19 Eastern Michigan University versus Rutgers University men’s basketball game. The Scarlet Knights were victors in the match-up 63-36. PokerStars also accepted one bet on the Monmouth University versus University of Pennsylvania Dec. 31 men’s basketball game. The Hawks narrowly edged out a victory, 76-74 in overtime.

The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and PokerStars’ parent company, TSG Interactive, agreed to the civil penalty earlier this month.

Neither DGE nor TSG officials could be reached for immediate comment.

PokerStars acknowledged that both incidents were in violation of N.J.S.A. [New Jersey Statues Annotated],” says an April 12 letter from David L. Rebuck, DGE director.

Under the settlement, PokerStars voided all wagers and refunded money to patrons before the games were played.

Under state law, bets cannot be taken on a “collegiate sport or athletic event that takes place in New Jersey or any individual sporting or athletic event in which any New Jersey college team directly participates regardless of where the event takes place.” New Jersey does allow betting on collegiate tournaments if some of the games take place in states other than New Jersey.

In contrast, Rhode Island and Delaware prohibit bets on in-state college or university teams.

Previously, Caesars Entertainment was fined $2,000 in December for unlawfully taking wagers on a Sept. 15 Rutgers’ football game against the University of Kansas that was played at the Jayhawks’ home field. Kansas crushed Rutgers 55-14.

Since last June, more than $2.3 billion in wagers were accepted in New Jersey through legal sports betting. The totals were beefed up by more than $320 million wagered on sporting events in February, particularly the Super Bowl, where the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. The recent NCAA basketball tournament, won by the University of Virginia, helped to create a robust month, too. March’s total accepted bets in New Jersey were approximately $372.5 million.

The state’s overall totals have been helped, too, by rules allowing online bets to be placed from mobile phones.

The US Supreme Court cleared the way for sports betting last May when ruling on a New Jersey case, Murphy vs. NCAA. Several states unfurled sports betting after the high court rejected the ban that had been put into place by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) in 1992.

Tougher Fines Possible

In the future, New Jersey may toughen the penalties for illegal betting on in-state colleges.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) recently introduced Assembly Bill 4947 that would allow the DGE to recommend, and the New Jersey Casino Control Commission approve — fines on sports betting operators ranging from $20,000 to as high as $100,000 per violation.

The sportsbook would also need to pay the state the amount equal to all improper wagers accepted, and operators could see their sports gambling permits suspended for 10 days. All money collected from sports betting penalties would be placed in the Casino Control Fund.

Loyal Fans

One reason why gamblers opt to bet on nearby teams is a tendency to feel the need to bet on a hometown or college team, the Rev. Richard McGowan, an associate professor in the Finance Department at Boston College, and who has written several books on the ethical and historical implications of gambling in America. For instance, given the Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl, gamblers in the Ocean State bet almost $20.7 million in wagers during February. Gambling venues paid out close to $21.6 million aided by the Patriots’ victory.