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Amaya Accidentally Promotes Live Full Tilt Poker in New Jersey

full-tilt-logoOnce in a while the programming crew for an online site can find themselves out of sync with the rest of the company, with a public blunder the typical result.  Add Canada’s Amaya Gaming to the list, following a programming gaffe yesterday in which New Jersey residents using interactive devices were able to access an online message claiming that Full Tilt Poker was available for real-money play in New Jersey.  (Update: A formal follow-up statement, at bottom, has been sent by an Amaya representative to FlushDraw.)

While Full Tilt and sister brand PokerStars may soon be available in the state, no such live play under those brands is available at the present.  So what happened?

That was on the minds of quite a few players, in New Jersey and elsewhere, after Jersey resident, poker player and writer Dennis Lopez discovered on Wednesday that he presumably could sign on to play real-money New Jersey online poker from his iPhone.  A surprised Lopez (@DOL_Rican) on Twitter, visited @FullTiltPoker, then received the following display:


Lopez quickly saved the image, sending it out to the world via social media.  Lopez was fully aware that neither Tilt nor Stars is yet available in New Jersey, even though NJ State Senator Ray Lesniak recently declared, in the latest in a series of such proclamations, that Amaya-owned sister brand PokerStars would be available in the state in March.

In just a couple of hours, word reached Amaya about the availability of the errant sign-up process, and Eric Hollreiser, Head of Corporate Communications for Rational Group confirmed that it shouldn’t have been made publicly available.  Here was Hollreiser, Tweeting in response:

ScreenHunter_27 Jan. 22 12.11

Neither Hollreiser specifically nor Amaya in general has issued a follow-up, but it seems like an obvious programming blunder, in which one element of test code for a potential startup of either PokerStars or Full Tilt was accidentally placed live and connected to one of the branded accounts.

Several specifics from the above image show that the accessed test was almost certainly a work in progress.  For example:

  • The wording mismatch between “Download” in the main text and “OK” in the bottom-of-screen instructions;
  • The placeholder “{0}” character string in the message, referring to a player’s account name, which would no doubt pull in a real screen name if such signups were actually live;
  • The way the message itself truncated abruptly, mid-sentence.  (Although more message might have been available via scrolling; this was not detailed by Lopez, the poster.)

Lopez, as with several other New Jersey-based forum posters who wrote about the errant code at PocketFives, subsequently attempted to see if the signup process actually worked.  It did not, and no players in New Jersey were able to participate in real-money play.  In Lopez’s case, he reported being referred to a presumptive download location on iTunes, where nothing further happened and no actual download occurred.  Such a client download would still only have been one small step of a normal registration process, and the text in the captured image appears to indicate that the process would be available only to smart-devices users who had already created an official New Jersey account.

The appearance of the errant message, of course, has added fuel to the proverbial fire regarding PokerStars’ (and now, perhaps, Full Tilt’s) arrival date in the Garden State.  In various forms, PokerStars has sought to participate in what is currently the United States’ largest, formally-regulated single-state poker market.  PokerStars path to New Jersey participation has been filled with landmines, and eventually, the process even included the sale of the company itself to Amaya.

That sale, which was finalized last summer, removed from corporate control the vestiges of Full Tilt and PokerStars parent Rational Group’s original ownership, the Scheinberg family.  Father and son Isai and Mark Scheinberg were both intrinsically evolved with the old Rational Group, though their ties to the firm were severed via the sale to Amaya.

It isn’t the first time such accidental signups have occurred, and it’s likely that New Jersey gaming regulators will quickly conclude that it was indeed just a programming error with no real impact.  The incident may turn out to be quite similar to a situation that unfolded in Nevada in May of 2013, when visitors to that state’s WSOP.com temporarily found themselves not only able to visit the site, but actually created small deposits (which were never actually processed) and played a few hands for what appeared to be real money.  In that instance, several different programming components were accidentally placed live before WSOP.com and parent company Caesars Interactive received formal approval from Nevada regulators.


Update, earlier, today, Amaya’s Eric Hollreiser sent out the following to selected media outlets, which further explains what happened while confirming the episode was a simple programming error:

Full Tilt has identified and corrected the cause of an inadvertent message in its play money iOS app which incorrectly stated that Full Tilt was licensed and would soon be launching in New Jersey.

We have been developing a real-money mobile poker app that has been submitted to the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement as part of the review process of our application to offer real money gaming under a NJ DGE license.

Unfortunately, a bug in an update to the Full Tilt play-money poker app inadvertently included a pop-up window alerting players in New Jersey that a licensed real money offering is available. As a result of the bug, a very small number of people were exposed to this pop-up before we resolved the issue.

This was only a message alert – at no time was a real-money app available. No-one had the ability to play real-money games, nor register for the ability to play real money games on Full Tilt.

The bug was identified and fixed within hours of being alerted to the issue.

To be clear, we continue to be in dialogue with State officials but have not been granted permission to participate in real money gaming in New Jersey at this time.

We apologize to the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement and to any players who were inconvenienced by this mistake.


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