Online casino laws in Virginia vs. New Jersey
Any US resident who is an avid casinos player will likely be aware of the differences in laws and legislation that different states have in place; the laws apply to both players as well as operators/ casinos. With the more from traditional brick and mortar casinos to online casinos, the laws have become more complex.
With this considered, we have made it our goal to help clarify gray areas and give insights into how any state regulation has changed the online gaming landscape. Gambling is legal at federal level but not at the state level – this leaves different states with a leeway of freedom to enact different laws with regards to any form of gambling. Nevada and Louisiana allow casino style gambling anywhere in the State; other states such as New Jersey restrict it to certain areas. Online gambling on the other hand is more restricted and is generally illegal in most US states. Legal restrictions and prohibitions always make room for black markets and underground activities which, for example, in the case of sports betting, are purported to have generated $150 million.
Given the complexities, we have focused on two very prominent states, Virginia vs. New Jersey, and compared their very different online casino laws. By doing so, we will help you become aware of the laws in these states so if you are currently residing in or plan to visit either of these, you will know what is and isn’t permitted within them.
New Jersey Laws
Of the two states, New Jersey is better known as a gambling state. In fact, excluding Nevada – the epicentre of US gambling – New Jersey is likely the best-known gambling state in the whole of the US. This is owed to the world-famous Atlantic City being based in New Jersey. Atlantic City is widely regarded as a hub for real-world casino gambling and is second only to Las Vegas in terms of prominence. There are many real-world New Jersey casinos open to punters, with some having been in business since as far back as the 1970s. With this considered, we can say the NJ is a state with a long and established history in the gambling world decades before the rise of online casinos.
Since the I-gaming revolution, New Jersey has evolved to become the largest American market for regulated online gambling. The market is estimated at around $225 million by some estimates which means that many licensed and unlicensed casinos try to penetrate the market and grab a share of the gambling revenue. The impetus towards online gaming has its roots in the New Jersey Senate Bill No. 490 which was passed back in 2011. This provided a significant amount of freedom for casino operators and players alike in the state and far more than any other states has offered its residents. As a result of these laws, New Jersey boasts the largest number of online casinos of anywhere in the US. This includes both casinos that are the online ventures of land-based casinos, those that were established brands in the other parts of the world then moved or casinos that have partnered with land-based casinos in order to launch their operations online. Unibet is a licensed New Jersey casino but there are others such as Sugarhouse and Borgata.
In order to function as a casino though there is a list of pre-requisites. The most important is to hold appropriate licensing awarded by the State of New Jersey Gambling Control Commission. The law in NJ requires online casinos to be partnered with a land-based casino in New Jersey. To obtain a license, one of the most important qualifying factors is that the online casino has its computer servers based inside a casino that is licensed within Atlantic City. This is monitored by GPS trackers and is the reason why practically all online casinos, even those with HQs based elsewhere, will have an affiliation with some of the longer established real-world casinos in the state. It is also why the most popular and successful New Jersey casinos are essentially the online versions of long-established bricks and mortar casinos.
As well as the requirement to partner with a land-based equivalent and meet strict regulations imposed by the NJGCC, acquiring a license is a very costly procedure with the price to obtain a licence costing well over $100,000 – alongside 15% tax on their gross gaming revenue. While this is quite the strain on casino operators, it could be argued this is a positive for players well-being. This is because it ensures that only a handful top of the range casinos with a proven track will be to obtain licenses . Ultimately, this provides a safer, securer and more reliable service than any other residents across the US can enjoy.
The widest number of online casino games are also permitted in the state with all formats of online casinos and poker gambling being available both for state residents and visitors of the state. As well as the option to bet on a wide selection of sporting events, including the most popular in the US, such as basketball, football, and baseball, and more universally popular sports can all be found at many online casinos based in New Jersey. This ensures that all the casino options you have at New Jersey-licensed casinos are a one-stop-shop for all types of gambling.
When it comes to the conditions that a player must meet in order to be able to play, the main factor is age: players must be 21. Another very important rule is that only people who are physical based within New Jersey can play at these casinos. This doesn’t mean you have to live there, but you will need to be located there when you play, whether that is for a daytrip or for a longer vacation. As well as this, many online casinos will request from you a Social Security Number when you sign up their site. They may also ask for other forms of ID, such as ID or passport details, or proof of address. Both of these latter two requests though are the standard at casinos worldwide and are known as a “KYC” (Know Your Customer) procedure.
Virginia, unlike New Jersey, isn’t a state that springs to mind when one thinks of gambling in the United States. The state has laws that are anything but lax, leaning towards restrictive and limiting. It is neither easy to gamble as a player nor is it easy for any casinos, online or offline, to set up shop within the state. Land-based casinos are in fact prohibited. Ultimately, the state is neither gambler or casinos friendly. We can say it is on the other end of the spectrum to New Jersey legality-wise. However, laws governing gambling in Virginia are not as draconian as some other states, such as Hawaii or Utah and there are a handful of ways that you can legally bet and also types of the gambling that aren’t prohibited. Virginia in fact offers the option to bet on more traditional pastimes such as lottery games or horse and dog racing. The laws governing casinos and gambling were mostly implemented before the advent of online gaming, leaving a grey area that has made online gambling “legal”.
While there is a specified legal framework for various aspects of real-world gambling behaviour, there is just one law specified for online gambling and that is that you must be of the legal age of 21. Other than this, it is basically, unregulated. This doesn’t mean that it is legal or illegal, it just means there are no rules in place for it.
However, the current moment in time for the state of these laws is an interesting one as there seems to be fast developing laws for online gambling in place. Most notably, this will be relevant for sports betting fans. The Virginia Senate passed a bill for the legalisation of online sportsbooks by a significant majority. This happened nearly a year ago in February 2019. Unfortunately, due to time restraints that are put in place on a year-to-year basis for legislation sessions, the law was not formally implemented. This means that still, to this day, would-be bettors are still waiting. In 2020, there will be more time for this implementation to take place and it would be highly likely that it would be put in place some point over the next 12 months. Sports betting would be the first step by the state to a wider implementation for a couple of important reasons. Firstly, as sports betting is becoming the most legalised form of online gambling in the states nationwide since a bill was passed to allow for single-sports-betting back in 2018. These have allowed various states to now allow the pastime. Secondly, in their real-world legislations, forms of sports betting, such as dog and horse racing, is already in place. As such, it would fit appropriately with their established laws.
Many hope that these changes may open avenues for more forms of betting to be allowed. Currently, there is also talks about legal online poker being implemented. Poker is another form of online betting that is becoming a more acceptable pastime in the US. If the sports bill gets passed, then a poker bill would likely follow shortly afterwards. Those of you who are more interested in playing online casino games, such as slots, or virtual blackjack and roulette, are likely going to be waiting for the longest for this to become officially legal. The state of Virginia doesn’t look very favourable on these types of games. These are defined as “games of chance” and are specified to be illegal in Virginia which is, essentially why real-world casinos are not permitted in the state.
It is worth considering though that, as mentioned, there are no specified laws currently in place that prevent online gambling in Virginia – it is simply just not specified. As a result of this, it is possible to find online casinos that residents of Virginia can play without any concerns – except perhaps losing your money.
Comparison & Conclusion – Which is Best?
When it comes to the casino laws between these two states, they couldn’t really be more different. New Jersey has both the infrastructure and legal framework which has helped breed a thriving gambling culture both online and offline, where players are free to enjoy practically every gambling experience they like, permitting they are within the state of New Jersey when doing so. Virginia, on the other hand, has no laws in place or any strictly legal places to play online casino games.
As such, the better option for online gambling is obviously, New Jersey. Although, if these rules are to change as they are hoped in Virginia there is a potential for this to change. Taking a leaf out of New Jersey’s book would be an ideal way to begin. They have formulated an ideal system which sees that tax is played, laws are adhered to, and players are well looked after. Although New Jersey has had nearly 50 years of experience in casino games, thanks to their thriving real-world market of Atlantic City so the transition to online casinos was much easier to accomplish.
This is why they are always going to have an edge on other states, even Nevada, who hesitated in using their advantage in casino gaming to benefit in fear of cannibalising their real-world product. This is hence why New Jersey is now and is likely going to continue being, one of the best spots for online gambling in the whole of the US.
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- Hg.org. (2020). A History of American Gaming Laws. [online] Available at: https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/a-history-of-american-gaming-laws-31222 [Accessed 20 Jan. 2020].
- https://eu.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2013/01/24/gambling-options-casinos-proliferate-across-usa/1861835/ [Accessed 20 Jan. 2020].
- USA Online Casinos. (2020). Virginia Casinos & Gambling Laws – USA State Casinos. [online] Available at: https://www.onlineunitedstatescasinos.com/states/virginia-gambling/ [Accessed 20 Jan. 2020].
- Findlaw. (2020). Virginia Gambling Laws – FindLaw. [online] Available at: https://statelaws.findlaw.com/virginia-law/virginia-gambling-laws.html [Accessed 20 Jan. 2020].
- International Business Times. (2019). Will the US Online Gambling Market ever truly open up?. [online] Available at: https://www.ibtimes.com/will-us-online-gambling-market-ever-truly-open-2863976 [Accessed 20 Jan. 2020].
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