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Double down: New Jersey begins trial of Internet gambling

This Nov. 19, 2013 photo taken from a computer screen in Atlantic City, N.J., shows an online slots game in progress on the global partypoker.com site. The site's parent company, bwin.party, is partnered with Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and will begin offering a test of Internet gambling to New Jersey residents on Nov. 21. Company officials say the global site is very similar to what New Jersey residents will experience when they log on. New Jersey is the third state in the nation to legalize online gambling. Wayne Parry / AP

New Jersey has become the third state in the nation to allow online gambling, starting with a five-day trial period of Internet betting at casinos beginning Thursday night — before the state’s official roll out scheduled for next week.

Six Internet gaming permit holders were given approval to start “soft play” on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. after vigorous testing, according to the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement. They include Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Bally’s Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City.

One permit holder, the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, did not make the cut for the test phase. But the casino said it hoped to join the other later in the week, according to the Associated Press.

PokerStars, the world's largest poker website, was not cleared to participate in the test with its land-based casino partner, Resorts Casino Hotel. PokerStars spokesman Eric Hollreiser said the company is continuing its talks with the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

"However it is now apparent that we will not have approval in place to launch on Nov. 26," Hollreiser told the Associated Press. "We remain committed to working with the division to complete the review process."

The test period was established to determine whether sophisticated technology designed to ensure that all gamblers are in New Jersey and at least 21 years old works correctly. The test also will evaluate electronic payment technology and the integrity and functionality of the casino games.

According to the gaming division, the approved permit holders demonstrated that their Internet gaming systems meet the requirements of the New Jersey Casino Control Act.

Some of the holders will be operating on multiple online sites, with a total of 13 gaming sites currently approved by the state.

"The soft opening will be used to demonstrate to the division that all systems perform as required under the stress of live gaming and that operational and revenue reporting controls are effective," Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck said in a statement.

"Staff will continually assess the progress of each platform provider before allowing them to open gaming to the general public on November 26," said Rebuck.

The launch is expected to let the public play during limited hours, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., on Nov. 21 and 22. The number of hours will then increase on Nov. 23 before expanding to all day.

"This is a very exciting time for Atlantic City and for the gaming industry," said Alisa Cooper, a commissioner with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

The only other states with online gambling are Nevada and Delaware.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.