High-profile gambling affiliate website OddsShark.com has fallen afoul of New Jersey regulations related to the promotion of unlicensed betting sites to US visitors.
Earlier this month, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) informed OddsShark.com that it faces regulatory action following an NJDGE determination that the website has been promoting illegal betting sites such as Bovada and 5Dimes alongside licensed NJ betting sites contrary to state law.
In a letter dated February 6th and signed by Deputy Attorney General Anthony Strangia, the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Law and Public Safety and the NJDGE notified Odds Shark that action will be taken for multiple violations of NJ regulations. Among other possible actions, the NJDGE has ordered all licensed NJ betting sites and casinos to stop doing business with Odds Shark.
DGE Letter to Odds Shark
The original notice from the NJDGE to OddsShark was published on AmericanCasinos.com and states:
“The Division has accessed your website located at www.OddsShark.com and found that, alongside promotional links to authorized New Jersey online gaming and sports betting websites, your website also promotes [Bovada, BetOnline and 5Dimes], among others which offer unauthorized internet gaming and sports betting to New Jersey residents.”
The notice goes on to explain that in June 2015, the NJDGE issued a Director’s Advisory Bulletin which gave plenty of advance warning to affiliates who promote illegal betting sites and casinos to New Jersey residents.
That notice read in part:
“The Division will not license or register any company that is promoting illegal sites, as this activity negatively affects that company’s good character, honesty and integrity. Additionally, the Division has instructed all New Jersey internet gaming and sports betting providers that they must cease doing business with any affiliate that promotes illegal gaming sites, regardless of whether the provider and affiliate are promoting New Jersey activity or activity in other jurisdictions.”
The latest notice to OddsShark also noted that it has shared its findings with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice for potential criminal action. In addition to violating NJ gaming regulations, the NJDGE believes OddsShark may also be in violation of criminal laws related to racketeering and promoting gambling.
And finally, the letter ends with this:
“We request that you immediately remove any online gaming links that are not authorized under federal law or under the law of any state. The State of New Jersey reserves the right to pursue appropriate civil or criminal sanctions against you if you fail to take the requested actions.”
Ample Warning Was Given Prior to Latest Enforcement Action
OddsShark and any other websites promoting unauthorized betting sites cannot say they haven’t been given ample warning. The 2015 Advisory Bulletin (issued more than three years ago now) clearly explained the rules and gave affiliate websites five full months to get in line or face the consequences.
There was little doubt New Jersey meant business when it sent out that original warning back in 2015. With New Jersey earning significant revenue from legal online gambling and sports betting, authorities have every incentive to crack down on offshore operators who encroach on the regulated market and poach customers without paying a dime in taxes.
New Jersey also warned affiliate websites that it would be sharing such breaches with regulators in other states moving forward, implying that a website caught promoting offshore sites in New Jersey may find itself blackballed in other states as well.
What is OddsShark.com?
OddsShark.com bills itself as “the global authority for online sports betting odds, whether it be in sports betting, poker, casino games or horse racing.” The site offers odds from around the globe, recommends sports books and offers fans and media outlets access to decades of statistics and trends via multiple databases.
Last year, a report from PiDatametrics revealed that Odds Shark has the largest share of voice, based on the number of times it was returned in Google US searches in relation to gambling searches. The report covered the period December 2015 – January 2019.
OddsShark odds are frequently cited in stories published in mainstream newspapers such as The New York Times and Forbes, while Sports Illustrated also regularly runs its odds.
According to multiple media outlets, OddsShark has not provided any response to the DGE’s notice, nor has it responded to any requests for comment. However, OddsShark has since taken down links to licensed NJ betting sites and the website now blocks access to anyone visiting from a NJ IP address.
New Jersey: What Next?
There is now doubt the NJDGE is serious about dealing with potential threats to its regulated online gaming market. Although Odds Shark is headquartered overseas and its owners unlikely to be extradited just to face criminal gambling charges, these actions against OddsShark will certainly hurt its long-term potential in the wider US online betting market with operators unlikely to partner with websites that have been labeled as bad actors by the state.
That this happened to one of the most visible affiliate websites on the internet is certainly no coincidence, either. New Jersey is making an example of OddsShark and the message is clear: we mean business and no one is too big to be kicked out of the market completely.
Even so, the DGE admits the fight against offshore betting platforms is an uphill battle. In a 2018 interview given to Legal Sports Report, David Rebuck said illegal markets are very robust and are “very good at what they do”.
“They’ll be a significant competitive force to the success of the legal market expanding in the United States,” he added.
Rebuck admitted that it would be nearly impossible to shut down offshore betting, but his goal was to put as much pressure as possible on illegal operators – to include targeting their affiliates in the US.
“One state can’t do it by itself,” he admitted. “One agency can’t do it by itself. Not only as state regulators but we need to be involved with the industry, with law enforcement (local, state and federal), we need to come up with a new game plan.”