Social Gambling in New Jersey: A Quick Guide

The social casino and gambling craze has taken off recently, particularly in the online space. But it isn’t actually a new gaming idea. There’s a good chance that you, your parents, or grandparents may have enjoyed an occasional friendly game of poker over drinks and cigars with friends, neighbors, family, or coworkers.

However, the line between social and traditional gambling has blurred over the years. You can now play free poker, blackjack, scratch, slots, or even lottery games through your social media accounts. That means you can play socially with millions of other gambling enthusiasts for free right on Facebook or social casino sites.

If you’re here, you may be wondering what exactly constitutes social gambling. Is it even legal? Here we walk you through the basics of social gambling — what it is, its legality in New Jersey, and how it works both offline & online. We also weigh the advantages and disadvantages of gambling socially over commercially.


What is Social Gambling in New Jersey?

The definition of social gambling varies greatly depending on whom you ask, where it takes place, and whether real money is involved. Generally, it’s considered a form of gambling or gaming that’s primarily done for fun or social purposes. In a lot of cases, the word “free” is thrown into the mix, but that’s usually subject to debate.

As far as offline games go, social gambling usually happens in a private space, spot, or location (for instance, in your game room, man cave, or living room). By definition and sometimes law, it shouldn’t take place in a casino, public space, business premise, or a commercial venue. Of course, social gambling is usually among people with a social connection, be they co-workers, family, neighbors, religious members, or friends.

Having said that, social gambling can still take place at a community center, country club, or a private club to which one of the participants is a member. The venue in question shouldn’t run, host, or sponsor the play. For instance, you and your pals can enjoy a few hands of blackjack in your club’s private card room.

The core idea behind social gambling is the absence of the so-called “house” which usually takes a cut of the action. Even if you and your friends do play a friendly weekend game of poker for real money, no one should take a cut of the play. Everyone at the game should have an equal or level playing ground, that is.

In an online setting, social gambling involves playing casino games for free on either social casino sites or social media platforms. It’s essentially a form of gambling that takes place on social media, but the concept and industry itself are more nuanced and more extensive than that.

An increasing number of traditional gambling operators have launched free-play games that players can enjoy socially on Bebo, Reddit, Facebook, and more. Classic examples include Farmville and social media gambling brands like Zynga.

It’s crucial that you don’t confuse social media gambling platforms and NJ online casinos that offer real-money gambling. The latter usually offer free-play games, but that isn’t their forte. After all, they’re regulated and licensed gambling sites that offer a wide variety of casino games, including slot machines, blackjack, baccarat, video poker, bingo, sports betting, and much more.

At real-money casinos, you must deposit real money to your gambling account so you can try your luck at the tables, slots, poker rooms, and sports markets. Yes, it’s true that these sites do also avail a vast selection of casino bonuses, free credits, free spins, and other freebies that you can use to enjoy their games. But their main offerings are real-money gambling games where you stand to win or lose.

So where do gambling end and playing casino games socially begin? Well, there are commonly two criteria for whether or when a gaming activity is considered social gambling or not:

  • On the one hand, no one earns a commission or profits by running, setting up, or hosting the game. The house, which is in most cases the organizer, doesn’t profit or take a cut of the gambling money. In commercial poker gambling, the casino (aka the “house”) takes a percentage of the pot, which is called a rake. This isn’t the case with social gambling, as there’s no buy-in or entry fee paid to the person hosting or running the game.
  • On the other hand, the playing ground is level for everyone. The odds are equally distributed, so no one in the room has an edge over the others. That means you and your friends have equal odds of winning or losing.

On top of that, the state of New Jersey requires that there be a social relationship between the players. Essentially that means you should be co-workers, neighbors, friends, family, or have social connections outside of gambling. Other states, most notably Iowa, require that the organizer obtains a license for social gambling.


The Appeal of Social Gambling: Why Do New Jersey Gamblers Love Social Gambling?

Social gambling is free & fun: Facebook enjoys more than half (over 61 percent market share, to be exact) of social gambling action. According to the guidelines of the social media giant, gambling with real money on the platform is only permitted in only a few countries, and you do need special authorization to do so. When you think about it, that means free social apps and games are here for the long run and will dominate the world of social gambling.

The fact that social gambling is free yet fun is one of the biggest reasons why it appeals to thousands of NJ gamblers. Even though some social games allow you to use pay-for-play credits, such as sweeps and gold coins, this isn’t mandatory. 

It’s no wonder the popularity of social casinos, games, and apps exceed real money gambling 20fold. Social gamblers spend more time gambling and play more games than real money gamblers. That’s partly because you can join social casinos and sites not only for free but can also try their gam selection for fun and at no charge to you. Being able to enjoy baccarat, slots, or poker with any financial pressure can be truly freeing.

You don’t have to limit yourself to Farmville or Angry Birds. Social media space offers a bountiful range of free blackjack, free Texas Holdem, free video slots, free keno, free bingo, and even free esports. Even much more fun is that you can play standalone games or play with strangers or your social media friends.

The bottom line is that social gambling is free. NJ casino gamblers usually have trouble finding free casino games to enjoy with their friends and loved ones with all the financial obligations. That’s where social gambling comes in.

It allows you and your friends to enjoy free slots, lottery games, scratch cards, blackjack, and poker – just to name a few examples. By the virtue of being free, these games enable you to brush up on your winning strategies, tactics, and gambling skills. Plus, you can simply kill time, relax, and distract yourself with social gambling.

The social element: Part of the charm of these games is the social element of gambling. You don’t have to suffer from anxiety, guilt, distress, or shame because of gambling losses. With social gambling, there are no losses to be made or agonized over.

Even more exciting, players can share their achievements and strike up conversations about their favorite features, social games, and share tips on how to gamble socially. The ability to participate in community forums, exchanges, and other interactive platforms makes social gambling all the more worthwhile and exciting.

Let’s be honest; every player loves to show off their gambling skills in front of their friends. When you are playing one of the real money poker sites in New Jersey, you would typically have no way of getting your friends involved (well, unless they are standing behind you). It is even more difficult to play at the same table as your friends at a regular online casino.

On social casino sites, you can simply hit up your pals every time you are in the mood for poker, blackjack, or any other game. From here, you can play with your friends in a breeze. You can also compare your achievements with them.

Let’s not forget that you will have a chance to brag about your wins and results. When you strike a big win when socially gambling, you can share the great news with your pals with a touch of a button or a simple click. Besides, you can review the same gambling apps and games with your friends right on your favorite social media site, whether that’s Twitch, Facebook, or Revholics.

Practice, practice, practice: If you are a newbie, you might burn through hundreds of dollars before you can get the hang of a new game at an online casino. With social gambling, however, you can learn a new game or hone your skills without having to spend a dime.

Huge game variety: Commercial casinos are limited by their software providers. If a particular gambling site uses software from Microgaming only, then you won’t be able to enjoy titles from other developers like NetEnt, Evolution Gaming, Yggdrasil Gaming, WMS, and little-known gems from 1X2Gaming, Elk Studios, or Push Gaming.

Social gambling opens up a new world of opportunities. With so many different social games to choose from, there is definitely something for everyone. Some of the games are provided by independent developers that don’t offer products to commercial gambling operators. A good example is Zynga; you’d never find some of the developer’s exciting games in online or brick & mortar casinos.

Better slot features: As with traditional casino gambling, slots reign supreme in the world of social gambling. But, unlike classic slots and video slots, social slots offer more and better bonus rounds, features, and levels. They also sport more fascinating plots, more enchanting sound effects, and more stunning graphics.

Most video slots you’ll find in conventional gambling sites focus on fruit, jungle, animals, galaxy, Greek mythology, and other pedestrian themes. Social slots offer a basketful of unique and exhilarating themes that appeal to a wider range of playing styles and preferences.

Social casino slots’ gameplay is familiar and intuitive.  The social gambler has to register in a game, whether on a social casino or social media platform like Facebook. They’ll each receive a daily stack of playing chips they can use to spin the reels.

Once you have exhausted your daily allotment of playing chips, you can purchase more or, preferably, wait until the next day to get your balance replenished automatically. The extra chips must be bought with real money, though.

There are also stimulating features that make social casinos feel like regular gambling sites. For instance, the platform can offer tickets to tournaments, allow players to share chips, or redeem wins for cash prizes. You can even enjoy great bonuses on social slot games.

Use of the latest technologies: Some social games now incorporate state-of-the-art technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, cryptocurrency, and even artificial intelligence to offer better gambling experiences.

For one, social gambling and blockchain technology seem to be a match made in heaven. Unlike traditional gambling sites, gaming platforms and engines built on top of blockchain technology offer players better privacy, fairness, and transparency. You don’t have to worry that someone has rigged the games or odds in their favor.

Blockchain makes it hard to tamper with the underlying gambling software. This sort of gambling is not only highly social and fair but also makes it safer and a bit anonymous for players to gamble. Looking into the future, blockchain gaming can be a crucial element of forward-thinking social gambling.

For instance, social casinos can provide their own cryptocurrencies or tokens in place of real money or fiat currency. This allows developers to place more emphasis on the features, security, and graphics of their games, rather than the gambling aspect.


How Does Social Gambling Work in New Jersey?

Social gambling run mostly from social media sites like Bebo, Facebook, etc., and dedicated social casinos, as well as social casino apps. These social gambling platforms offer similar games to what you’ll find at an NJ online casino. Some of them come from independent developers while others look like clones of regular casino games from big providers like NetEnt, Microgaming, IGT, Playtech, and other top-tier developers.

In most cases, social casino games are run by third-party companies and they’re offered almost exclusively on social platforms. As such, they are designed for entertainment and social purposes, but real money games also do exist in social casinos.

For the most part, social games are available to play and download for free. That’s not to say that social gambling operators are not making money out of their offerings. They do make money through advertising, white-label partnerships, in-app/in-game purchases, and product placements. Some social games allow players to purchase credits for advancing from one level to the next, such as coins and sweeps.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, each player receives a daily allotment of playing chips. Once they run out of these free chips, they can purchase additional credits by spending real money. Some features of social gambling products can also be unlocked through in-game payments. That makes them basically freemium games.

Social casinos function practically in the same way standard gambling sites do. You must sign up for an account and then login with your credentials each time you want to gamble socially. As a new player, you will receive a raft of new customer enticements like free bonuses, free spins, and other forms of free credit.

Being able to interact with others is, of course, the core feature of every social casino. Players can chat, compare tips, and share their victories, all while enjoying their favorite casino games for free. They can also compete against one another in tournaments.


Pros and Cons of Social Gambling

If you’re at the crossroads on whether to play at an online casino or opt for social gambling, here are the top advantages and disadvantages:

Pros of social gambling

  • It’s not actually real-money gambling, so there is very minimal chance of developing gambling addictions and other consequences of problem gambling
  • Social gambling is fun, exciting, and free! You don’t actually have to spend money to enjoy social gambling.
  • Social gambling is totally legal in many jurisdictions, including New Jersey and 26 other states across the US. In fact, it’s legal in some states where online gambling is still illegal.
  • You can gamble without any financial obligation or risk
  • Social gambling is a great alternative for people who don’t gamble for religious, moral, or other personal ethos.
  • Social casinos offer a wider variety of games from traditional software developers and independent companies
  • You can play social games anytime and wherever you want, including on the go via social media and casino apps
  • Social casinos provide you with a free and accessible way to practice and hone your gambling skills

Cons of social gambling

  • You cannot cash out or withdraw your winnings; you can still brag about your victories on social media, though. Still, this can sting if you have landed a particularly big win.
  • Game bonuses are rare and sometimes unavailable on social casinos
  • There’s no way to get back the money you spend on in-game purchases, credits, and other premium elements
  • Most social casino games are mediocre at best. That’s because pretty much software developers can design and create games for social platforms. In fact, most of them are copycats of real casino games like the Wheel of Fortune

The most obvious distinction between social gambling and online casinos is that the latter involves real money gambling. And because social gambling doesn’t involve real gambling, it’s usually allowed in most jurisdictions, including New Jersey. It’s also an excellent choice for persons whose religious, personal, or moral beliefs don’t allow them to gamble. 

Ultimately, social gambling wins because of the fact that it’s free, as players don’t have to risk their hard-earned dollars to enjoy gaming. Thus, players get all of the excitement, fun, and appeal of winning and playing without the consequences of real gambling.


Is Social Gambling Legal in New Jersey?

The short answer is maybe. While social gambling in New Jersey isn’t technically legal, it is not a criminal offense, either. As long as no one is getting a cut of the pot at the social gambling events, the players will not be prosecuted.

The state gambling law (and, by extension, criminal penal code) doesn’t explicitly or implicitly say that social gambling is permitted or illegal.

New Jersey has ambiguous laws that likely make social gambling legal. While both laws are rather unclear or bring in some restrictions, most forms of online social gambling in New Jersey are legal. Find out more about the legality of social gambling here.

On the one hand, the state criminal code ~2C:37-1 makes it clear that gambling pools, poker, sports betting pools, bridge, and other skill-based gambling outside legalized casinos are not permitted.  So before you organize and invite your pals for several rounds of poker, you might want to reconsider. If you’re found guilty of contravening this law, the host or whoever is running the gambling event will be charged and not other players. Prosecution of home social gamblers, however, is very rare in the Garden state.

As with all other forms of gambling, you must be at least 21 years of age to socially gamble in New Jersey. Anyone found guilty of underage gambling will be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months. On top of that, the driver’s license of the offender will be suspended for 6 months.


What are the most popular social games in New Jersey?

For offline gambling, most social gamblers prefer poker, blackjack, or baccarat. However, online social gambling offers some of the most beloved games like Farmville, Blitz Bingo, Cityville, Farm Town, Mob Wars, Slotomania, and Texas Hold’em.

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