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December 17, 2014

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Gamblers from half the country try to bet online in NJ

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Joseph Brennen of Ventnor, N.J., logs on to a Harrah’s online casino on his laptop from a highway rest area in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, the first day of a test of Internet gambling in New Jersey.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Would-be gamblers from at least 23 states tried to log onto casino gambling websites in the first night of New Jersey's test of online betting.

Matt Katz is CEO of CAMS LLC, which provides geolocation technology to the Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza, and age verification technology to the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. He told The Associated Press those attempts show why New Jersey's fledgling Internet gambling industry needs strict safeguards to keep out-of-state residents from gambling online here.

New Jersey's Internet gambling law requires that gamblers be present in the state.

But that technology locked out many legitimate would-be gamblers Thursday night during the first of a five-night trial period for online betting. State regulators are closely watching how the test period goes before determining whether Internet gambling can be offered to anyone in the state on Tuesday.

New Jersey is now the third state in the nation with online gambling, after Nevada and Delaware.

Lisa Spengler, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, said regulators are "not overly concerned" with geolocation issues after the first night. She said Director David Rebuck anticipated they would occur and expects them to be worked out over the next few days.

"It is better to have instances of people in New Jersey being blocked, than instances of people being able to gamble from outside of New Jersey," she said.

Spengler said the problems some users reported "at this point seem to be routine and not evidence of any system-wide issues."

Casino executives and their online partners say adjustments are being made and systems are continuing to be tested, but cautioned that unexpected glitches were likely to pop up over the next few days.

"We are using the soft launch for exactly what it was intended for — to test," said Joe Lupo, senior vice president of the Borgata. He said his casino would not be online Friday night except for in-house staff and a handful of their invited guests. A decision on when to let the public log on during the test period will be made Saturday, he said.

The Borgata was one of several casino sites with which users experienced problems Thursday night, not knowing they would not be allowed to play yet.

Other customers experienced difficulty registering for one or more of the 14 sites or funding an account there. But more were thwarted by geolocation software, which wrongly determined they were not within New Jersey's boundaries — even when they were 15 miles inside.

Katz, and Rip Gerber, founder of the Locaid technology firm, both said their technology was working as intended. It would be up to individual casinos to decide to alter the access boundaries that had been set. Katz said spoke with each of his clients Friday, but could not offer them specific recommendations on changing the boundaries yet.

Bobby Lynch, of Manalapan, managed to set up accounts with two sites but said he ran into technical problems. One let him register but later in the evening wrongly flagged him as being out of state. Another had a software problem verifying his Social Security number.

"My hopes were too high," he said. "It will take time; they will fix most glitches in next couple days."

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