The state Division of Gaming Enforcement's decision, which came after more than four days of testing the technology involved in online betting and making sure gamblers are within New Jersey, allows the state to join Nevada and Delaware as the only ones offering Internet gambling. It authorized six of the seven casinos that hold Internet gambling permits to immediately offer online gambling throughout New Jersey.
"At this point in time, the casinos are trying to gear up for larger play in the state," division director David Rebuck said in an afternoon conference call with reporters.
He didn't immediately have an estimate of how many people had logged on during the test period but said it had topped 10,000 fairly early during the test.
"I don't expect any widespread, significant problems," he said.
Technically, Rebuck's order authorized the casinos to continue unrestricted play beyond the test period's midnight Monday expiration. But because the casinos were already in around-the-clock play as part of the testing, his decision effectively gave them permission to do statewide gambling immediately, he said.
The six casinos approved are the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa; the Tropicana Casino and Resort; Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino; the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort; Bally's Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City.
The casinos immediately began offering promotional deposits to players. The Tropicana announced a $50 sign-up bonus and said it would make offers to attract people to its brick and mortar casino and its online version.
That was good news to Peter Cerrato, of Edison.
"I like to go to Atlantic City, but sometimes that two-hour round trip can be a little much," he said. "I'll see if this is something I like, but I definitely would still go to the casino as well."
The Golden Nugget Atlantic City was required to continue testing its systems before being cleared for unrestricted play. General manager Tom Pohlman said there were content issues that would have made logging on and playing an unsatisfactory experience for customers.
"Playing slots randomly would freeze up and generate an error message," he said. "That is not the experience I want for my customers. We'd rather get it right than be embarrassed by something that doesn't work. This is not a sprint for us; it's a marathon."
He said the glitches could be fixed well before a week has passed.
New Jersey began a five-day trial period of online gambling last Thursday. The purpose was to test the technology involved in the games and determine whether the systems are ready for the entire state to log on and play.
During the test period, many users were locked out by geolocation software that wrongly determined they weren't within New Jersey's borders. Rebuck said the geolocation problems are matters for the casinos and their technology partners to address and weren't a widespread systemic problem that needs fixing by state regulators.
The state will begin reporting the casinos' Internet revenue starting with its monthly statistical report issued in January.