By Tracey Porpora/Staten Island Advance, on February 02, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated February 03, 2014 at 3:46 PM STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- If you enjoy slots, black jack, roulette, poker or other games of chance, you no longer have to trek all the way to Atlantic City, N.J. to place a wager.
In fact, if you're feeling lucky, you can just grab your smartphone, iPad or laptop, and take a ride over one of the Island's three bridges to the Garden State to engage in the casino experience online.
Legalized and launched in New Jersey in November, the online gaming craze is catching on with Staten Islanders.
However, the caveat for borough residents -- some of whom live only 10 minutes across the Jersey border -- is you have to be physically located in the Garden State to play.
"We have people from New York and Pennsylvania who come to New Jersey and they are playing online. We have people who travel for business and play when they are in town," said Steve Callender, general manager at the Atlantic City, N.J.-based Tropicana Casino and Resort, which operates TropicanaCasino.com and VirginCasino.com, and is one of 15 authorized gaming websites in N.J.
Of Tropicana's 10,000 registered users, 1,000 are from New York with 86 gamblers hailing from Staten Island, he said.
Whether the gaming websites are attracting "true gamblers" or just curiosity seekers, they are gaining followers in droves. As of Jan. 5, there were 148,487 Internet gaming accounts created in N.J., said Lisa Spengler, a spokeswoman for the N.J. Department of Law and Public Safety Division of Gaming Enforcement.
DON'T TRY IT HERE
But try logging onto an online gaming site at home, and you'll be shut out. Online gambling is illegal in New York.
So whether it's while you're waiting in your car for your wife who is shopping in the Woodbridge Mall or on your lunch break in a Starbucks in Bayonne, you'll need to find a comfy place within Garden State boundaries to play.
"Safeguards in place include geolocation technology designed to verify that gamblers are physically within New Jersey borders. Technology includes location tracking through wifi, cellular and IP addresses," said said Ms. Spengler.
In fact, about 50 percent of people who try to log onto online gambling sites get rejected "for one reason or another," said Jeff Allyn, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the San Francisco, C.A.-based Locaid, a carrier network mobile location company that helps gambling providers protect against out-of-state hackers.
"Most of the time they are rejected for being out of state or the IP address doesn't match up with the phone location," said Allyn.
In the first few weeks of the online gaming launch, NJ.com reported that people in more than 25 different states had attempted to log onto New Jersey's gambling websites to play.
"We know exactly where people are playing when they are in New Jersey," said Callender. "Geolocation is a GPS cell tower triangulation deal with the most up-to-date technology that makes sure people are actually in New Jersey."
The technology is so sophisticated that if you were online gambling from your iPad while riding in a car, once you drive over the bridge it will shut off, said Callender.
"And when you drove back into New Jersey you'd be able to log on and finish the hand you were playing," he said.
To further safeguard against any types of hackers trying to log in from beyond New Jersey borders, many gambling providers have moved the access boundaries inland.
"A lot of customers (gambling site providers) have moved the borders in a little bit, just to be safe," said Allyn.
"There are probably a few people in the state located in the boarder areas, like Hoboken, and can't get in right now...Over time those boundaries will get adjusted. They are being very conservative because we don't need to have someone in Staten Island or Manhattan able to wager; that will just hurt the industry," he added.
WORD OF CAUTION
While casinos have been blitzing the media with ads for their online gambling sites, some say online gaming poses a danger to those who may not realize how much they are betting.
"It's one thing if you have to go someplace to gamble, but if you can do it online and it's right in front of you people who are hooked on it are just going to keep throwing money into it," said Stan Collora of Westerleigh.
And with wifi services offered at many business locations in New Jersey, the temptation is there for Islanders to participate in online gambling -- especially since it's been reported that people are already striking it big.
Just last week, a 29-year-old New Jersey man won $153,638.75 on the "Going Nuts" online progressive slot machine at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa online gaming site, according to NJ.com.