New Jersey iPoker is faring better than Wisconsin poker in our latest news roundup.
New Jersey and Wisconsin are very different states, to be sure, but besides sharing one commonality in that both of their governors are running for the 2016 GOP ticket, they also each made headlines this week in regards to poker.
In the Garden State, Internet poker posted its first revenue increase in four months, with the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) reporting that peer-to-peer gaming grew by 2.7 percent in July. [Editor’s note: While some define “peer-to-peer gaming” as games hosted by players themselves with no central server involved, the New Jersey DGE defines it as any online game where players are competing against each other, and not the house per se).
The $1.88 million gross poker win is still 12 percent lower than July of 2014 when iPoker generated $2.14 million, but the reversal of the three-month downfall was met with relief by both consumers and operators nonetheless.
The news wasn’t quite as cheery for those in support of poker in the Badger State, as Circuit Judge Richard Niess stayed the course with poker prohibition, saying that while he believes poker to be as American as “baseball and apple pie,” the law is the law, and he does not possess the power to change it.
The Good News: New Jersey
After basically flatlining in June and the market becoming rather grave, New Jersey bounced back in July, primarily from stronger-than-expected numbers from the Borgata/partypoker rooms, increasing some five percent from the previous month. Numbers for its only competition, the WSOP.com/888poker partnership, remained flat.
And while online poker proponents certainly have reason to wipe the sweat off their brows, the celebrations will remain on hold as year-to-date iPoker is still down 24.5 percent. Which is even more striking considering Internet casinos overall in New Jersey are up 15.6 percent in 2015.
Of course, that could soon change should PokerStars finally be granted its long-desired poker license by the DGE. Much finger-pointing has resulted from the delay, primarily between White House hopeful Governor Chris Christie and his potential replacement, State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-District 20), but most estimates have the world’s largest poker network entering in the coming months through its agreement with Resorts Casino in Atlantic City.
The Bad News: Wisconsin
Things may be looking up in New Jersey, but not so much in Wisconsin. Poker is currently outlawed across the state in commercial buildings, including taverns and pubs, but electronic poker is permitted at tribal reservation casinos.
A group of poker players led by Steve Verrett, president of the Wisconsin Poker Players Alliance chapter, and Mark Kroon, a local sports bar owner who previously held poker tournaments in them, asked Judge Niess to overturn the law, since poker is a game of skill. Although Niess conceded that skill is involved, he said, “I can’t ignore the law,” pointing to a 1964 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that went against a tavern owner who held social poker games.
The law against poker is a statute that bans the card game across the entire state, but a recent ruling gave Native American tribes the right to offer electronic variations including Ultimate Texas Hold’em. The lead attorney for Verrett and Kroon argued that recent changes override the 1964 law, and that if poker is legal for tribes, it should be legal for private citizens.
Attorney Stan Davis said the court “explicitly agreed with our interpretation that Wisconsin has not criminalized poker. The sad part is that someone could get arrested over this because of a 50-year-old case.”
The plaintiffs are considering an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court, though Niess warned those chances are about as likely as “drawing to inside straight.”