WSOP Says NJ Players Can Play, But Can They?

June 5, 2019
WSOP Says NJ Players Can Play, But Can They?

We can now confirm that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) management is planning to host New Jersey players for all nine of its online bracelet events. We hope that it can, but we’re not sure if it will be possible.

Before this week, tournament officials had only been willing to confirm New Jersey players’ eligibility for the first two events. However, in the wake of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission‘s court win over the Department of Justice (DOJ), the WSOP team felt confident that the remaining seven events on the schedule would also be available in the Garden State.

The news came from Pokerfuse, who interviewed WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky about the issue.

“[B]arring something unforeseen, we plan on continuing with shared liquidity between Nevada and New Jersey for the remaining eight WSOP gold bracelet events between now and July 14,” said Palansky.

Clearly, the WSOP team sees the happenings in New Hampshire as a decisive win for the good guys and a lawful repudiation of the January 2019 DOJ opinion that precipitated this whole mess.

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We all need to calm down

To be clear, most of us would like nothing more than to see such a thing occur. It would be a refreshing victory for freedom, democracy, and a bunch of gamblers to watch the mighty DOJ slink away into the shadows.

Unfortunately, the New Hampshire court decision was not that. In fact, Judge Paul Barbadoro was purposely specific in outlining the scope of the decision.

In the end, the judge found for the plaintiffs in the case, who were the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and its strategic vendor, NeoPollard. The court vacated the 2019 DOJ opinion and affirmed that the Wire Act only pertains to sports betting.

The problem is that the judge only found that to be true for the plaintiffs listed. So far, no one else is covered under this exclusion.

We spoke with sports law professor John Holden about the scope of the case. He emphasized the fact that the scope of the decision was quite narrow.

“The decision mentioned the word poker exactly zero times,” he said. “As a result, the decision does not directly address how poker fairs under the ruling. Judge Barbadoro was very careful to clearly state that he was ruling on the case before him, for the Plaintiffs before him, not anyone else.”

It’s still possible that only two WSOP events will be available

So, unfortunately, it is not at all settled that New Jersey players can play on beyond the June 14 deadline that the DOJ set. The DOJ is almost certain to file an appeal to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

Along with the appeal, the government agency will seek a stay of the lower court’s judgment. In that case, the DOJ opinion would remain in effect, and the attorney general could direct his prosecutors to enforce the new interpretation undaunted.

However, poker fans should not fully despair.

Ironically, an appeal might be a good thing for people on the pro-gambling side. According to Holden, the 1st Circuit could potentially expand the scope of Barbadoro’s ruling.

There’s no way to tell if such a thing were imminent. Instead, it is more likely that casino and poker interests will need to file their own legal challenges to the DOJ opinion.

However, they can do so with some precedent behind them now. Indeed, that may be the main value of this initial victory in New Hampshire.

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