Amaya Fined by NJ DGE for Geolocation Slip-Up

So, yeah, um…this is a little awkward. When challenged by those who are against online poker, proponents of online gambling (like me!) point to technological solutions as one of the prongs of our argument. Yes, underage gambling is a concern, we say, but there is technology in place to prevent it from happening. Yes, problem gambling is a concern, we say, but there is technology in place to help with that. No, the internet doesn’t have physical borders, but technology can restrict locations from which players can access sites. And that’s where we just encountered a problem. In an “Actions of the Director” report for the second half of January 2017, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) noted that Amaya US Services Limited, operator of PokerStars, was fined $25,000 for allowing some people to play while located outside of the state.

amaya-gaming-logoNow, before everyone goes bonkers, only a “limited” number of players were able to access the games from outside New Jersey for a “short period of time” and it was because of a software flaw that thought they were inside state borders. The flaw has been fixed and all is now well in the world (well, not really, but that has nothing to do with online poker geolocation).

PokerStars apparently discovered the problem itself when a follow-up geolocation check determined that some players had gotten on the site who weren’t supposed to.

Below is the Civil Action Order signed by New Jersey DGE Director David Rebuck:

The Division of Gaming Enforcement (“Division”) having conducted an investigation into allegations that Respondent, Amaya US Services Limited (“PokerStars”), due to a software flaw, permitted certain patrons not physically located within New Jersey to wager on its regulated Internet wagering website ; and

The investigation having revealed that the software flaw allowed a limited number of patrons to wager while not located in New Jersey for a short period of time before a subsequent geolocation check detected such patrons and blocked them from wagering; and

The Investigation having revealed that PokerStars has since deployed an update which fixed the software flaw so that all persons located outside of New Jersey are now prevented from wagering on its website;

Having considered the findings of the Division’s investigation, the relevant portions of the Division’s regulations, specifically N.J.A. C. 13:690.1.2(e)(2), the Stipulation of Settlement which the parties executed, and the factors in mitigation presented by PokerStars, and finding sufficient legal and factual support for the penalty therein;

I hereby ORDER that a civil penalty of $25,000.00 be imposed on Respondent PokerStars, as agreed to in the Stipulation of Settlement.

An Amaya representative spoke with Poker Industry PRO, confirming the DGE’s claim:

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) issued a fine of $25,000 to Amaya US Services for a software flaw related to geolocation checks that affected a small number of players on PokerStars.NJ. Upon discovery, the issue was quickly resolved and Amaya US Services proactively reported it to the DGE.

While the number of people and amounts wagered were minimal, Amaya acknowledges and accepts that this is a serious matter and continues to be wholly committed to providing a safe, secure and compliant playing platform in New Jersey.

So there you have it. I would not be surprised in the slightest if in some future online poker hearing or some letter that someone writes to a Congressperson, this incident will be brought up. Jason Chaffetz will look all smug with his Cha-Ka face and tell everyone that he told us so, that the technology doesn’t work.

Two things: no technology will work 100 percent of the time. Shit happens. But it has worked almost all the time. Also, it actually DID work. PokerStars discovered the problem with its geolocation technology. No, the players weren’t caught immediately, but they were caught.

But, but…people from out of state played on a New Jersey site! Regulation doesn’t work! But that’s where you’re wrong, you imaginary person into whose mouth I just put words. Amaya/PokerStars followed the rules, violated them ever so slightly, and got punished. The flaw in its geolocation system was also fixed in order to prevent future problems. Without regulations, PokerStars wouldn’t have to put any sort of protections in place if management didn’t want to. We would hope they would, but it wouldn’t have to.

Without strict, enforceable online gambling regulations, we get UltimateBet, Absolute Poker, Full Tilt, and a litany of other online gambling sites that screwed over customers. Sometimes things happen that aren’t so great (and in this case, it sounds like it was insanely minor to the point that I feel a little silly even writing about it), but regulations help ensure they don’t happen more often and punishments are levied when they do.

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