Locations with WiFi must decide on N.J. gambling

A casino game now available online in New Jersey.
A casino game now available online in New Jersey. (The benefits of such games to individual A.C. licensees is difficult to predict.)
Posted: December 01, 2013

Coming soon to a Starbucks in New Jersey: Five guys huddled around a corner table with laptops open, playing poker online?

That was a scenario discussed at an Internet gambling conference last month in Philadelphia.

"You're going to have an informal clustering of people," Joe Brennan, former chairman of iMEGA, an online-gaming association, predicted at the World Regulatory Briefing.

"That's natural social functioning," he said.

Does that mean poker players and slots addicts will flood free public WiFi hot spots like Wegmans and Starbucks, now that online gambling is legal in New Jersey? Will retailers allow it?

Some will. Some won't.

Asked before online gambling's trial period started Nov. 21 if it would allow people to gamble using free WiFi in its stores, a Starbucks spokeswoman said: "Unfortunately, at this time we do not have any information to share."

For the moment, at least, Starbucks appears to be allowing. An Inquirer reporter succeeded in gambling at Tropicanacasino.com at a Starbucks in Galloway Township on Tuesday, the day online casinos opened to the public.

Wegmans, on the other hand, blocked gambling sites before it was legal, and "we have no plans to change that," spokeswoman Jo Natale said.

Dunkin' Donuts is thinking about what to do.

"We're proud to offer our guests free high-speed WiFi access at many of our U.S. Dunkin' Donuts restaurants. We are currently assessing our WiFi usage policy for stores in New Jersey in light of the recent legislation," said Justin Drake, a spokesman for Dunkin' Brands.

Numerous other retailers did not respond to requests for comment.

Some gamblers report difficulty getting to online sites.

A spokesman for Caesars, which has online sites for Harrah's and Caesars in New Jersey, said the most common problems were on the consumer end, not with the technology platform.

Seth Palansky, vice president of communication for Caesars Interactive Entertainment Inc., said Friday that some added software for Web browsers causes problems and that would-be gamblers sometimes need to activate WiFi on their computers even if they have a cable connection to the Internet. He said Google Chrome seems to work best for online gambling.

"The bar is high to get going, but once above it, everything should run smooth," he said.


hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651 @InqBrubaker

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