The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) has recently threatened to fine online sportsbooks that are asking players to reverse withdrawals. The authorities dismissed the ongoing practice as “unacceptable,” in which some bookmakers have been found offering players cash bonuses if they cancel requests to cash out money from their accounts.

In a letter posted Wednesday to its site, David Rebuck, director of the NJDGE, said the Division probed the matter following a huge volume of player complaints. The NJDGE didn’t say how many complaints the Division has received of such activity, but added that trying to keep customers from withdrawing funds from their accounts, through ways including enticing bonuses, violates various state rules. “Patrons who request withdrawals are entitled to receive their funds as expeditiously as possible,” Rebuck wrote.

Without naming any sportsbook, Rebuck wrote: “Sportsbook operators ought to clearly understand the authority will take regulatory action and impose penalties whenever patrons are improperly encourage or incentivized to cancel their withdrawal requests to resume gaming activity.”

Immediate Withdrawals Not Required

New Jersey regulations do not require withdrawals to be processed immediately. The intervening time, though unspecified, can be taken to check a bettor’s identity and probe any fraud or money laundering-related issues. However, the customer must be given the money without any further delay once these concerns are allayed.

Rebuck addressed this in his letter and reported that the delay was not the major issue, but encouraging players to reverse their withdrawals was. “In the period between a withdrawal request and the actual release of money to the customer, patrons reported contact from providers enticing them to reverse the withdrawal request and bet the funds.” According to the director, some patrons also reported being offered bonus money to reverse a pending withdrawal request. He added such an offer or the so-called bonus money would be considered “an aggravating factor” in disciplinary action against an operator.

Moral Hypocrisy?

Although the letter from the NJDGE threatened to take action against the accused sportsbooks, no fines or suspensions have been handed out. Stop Predatory Gambling organization recently accused the state’s attorney general’s office which oversees the NJDGE of “moral hypocrisy” for initiating a high-profile lawsuit against the opioid industry, while remaining soft on the sportsbooks. The group’s director Les Bernal termed it a naked attempt by digital gambling operators to get citizens to lose more money. “What NJ should be doing is suspending and fining them, not just some long-winded letter threatening action.”

The Garden State has become the national leader in sports betting ever since the striking down of PASPA in 2018. In 2020 alone, New Jersey sportsbooks took more than $6 billion worth of sports bets. Last month, the state’s casinos and horse tracks posted almost $1 billion in sports wagers, setting the US record for most money wagered in a month on sports in any state. The state hugely benefits from the revenue drawn in from only sports betting, which would explain the soft approach towards operators.

Normal Practice, Normal Threat!

The recent activity that the regulators have found is not limited to New Jersey alone, and nor are the threats. Recently, the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission directed the licensed sportsbooks to stop “reverse withdrawal options” until further notice. There are concerns that the gamblers could indulge in excessive betting during the pandemic-led lockdowns.

Ironically, the letter was posted the day that New Jersey released an all-time high sports betting handle for December. The letter seems to give a wake-up call toward responsible gambling practices.

Also, not all operators are involved in shady practice. Rush Street Interactive which operates in the Garden State approved over 75% of online player cash-out requests “in real-time” during the Q4 last year. The company’s president Richard Schwartz said, “Our automated payout method protects players by enabling them to cash out quickly so they don’t otherwise rescind their payout requests and continue gambling with their winnings.”

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