PokerStars got sent to the principal’s office in New Jersey this month, hit with the state’s largest-ever sports betting fine. Now, before you get too excited, keep in mind that this is PokerStars, which has a seemingly bottomless supply of cash and the fine was only $10,000.
The violations committed by TSG Interactive US Service Limited, the company “doing business as” PokerStars, date back to the end of last year. New Jersey sports betting regulations specify that sportsbooks are not allowed to accept bets on collegiate games either involving a school from the state or taking place in the state. PokerStars accepted more than 200 wagers on two games that meet this criteria.
The first game was between the Eastern Michigan and Rutgers men’s basketball teams on November 19, 2018. This is off-limits because Rutgers is in New Brunswick, New Jersey (plus, the game took place at Rutgers). According to the order signed by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck on April 12, 2019, PokerStars accepted 216 bets on the game for a total of $2,756.89.
The second game was on New Year’s Eve between Monmouth and Penn. Though contested at The Palestra in Philadelphia, Monmouth is a school located in West Long Branch, New Jersey, so betting was not permitted on that game. Just one bet was accepted for that game.
Sports betting operators were reminded via e-mail about the rules regarding New Jersey-based teams and competitions before the basketball season, but it looks like someone didn’t fix their spam filters at PokerStars.
PokerStars accepted the $10,000 fine and admitted the mistake.
In an e-mail to the Press of Atlantic City, Matt Primeaux, senior vice president for Strategy & Operations, USA at The Stars Group, explained what happened:
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. We’re glad to have had a successful NCAA basketball season with our players enjoying our Home of the Underdog campaigns that saw us put out best odds in the market for all underdogs.
Happy to hear that their sportsbook promotions went well, despite taking illegal bets. Good for them.
Most reasonable people think the specific prohibition in New Jersey’s sports gambling regulations is dumb and unnecessary, including sports betting and online poker’s biggest champion in the state, former State Senator Ray Lesniak.
Lesniak told The Press that he wishes he never included the prohibition in the legislation, but he felt he needed to in order to get it passed because some of his colleagues were afraid of the old “harming the integrity of the game.”
“Having betting out in the open where it can be monitored and seen is a lot more effective in discovering unusual betting patterns and thereby preserving the integrity of the game,” he said.