ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey residents and visitors will be able to start gambling online on Nov. 26, after a five-day trial period to make sure the systems operated by the city’s 12 casinos work properly.
The state Gaming Enforcement Division told The Associated Press on Friday that Atlantic City’s casinos may begin a “soft play” period on Nov. 21 for invited guests. If all goes well, the casinos can begin full Internet gambling at 9 a.m. on Nov. 26.
Gamblers would have to be physically located within New Jersey’s boundaries to play. New Jersey will be the third state in the nation to offer online gambling, along with Nevada and Delaware.
“I think this is going to be a significant revenue stream,” said Robert Griffin, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, which operates two casinos here. “It has the potential to make up 20 percent of our revenue.”
He said state regulators have not yet explained how the guests who are invited to participate in the trial period are to be selected, but said it would have to be a significant enough number to test the system’s capabilities.
Online gambling is designed to give the struggling casinos new revenue, though some worry the in-person business will simply migrate to computers, leading to casino job losses. Atlantic City’s casino revenue has plunged from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006 to a little more than $3 billion last year and could dip below that mark by the end of this year. Thousands of casino jobs have been lost already as many gamblers choose options closer to their homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland.
Consultant and former Gaming Enforcement Director Frank Catania said online gambling will help the state tap into a new crowd.
“The ones that don’t go to the casinos and they’ll be able to offer them a trip to Atlantic City on a weekend, a dinner, etc.,” Catania told WCBS 880′s Levon Putney. “It’s about time that we moved ahead.”
Catania said online gambling has the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars, but notes that’s conjecture.
“It’s a guess right now,” said Catania. “It depends on how far we’re able to go.”
Catania said Atlantic City needs non-gaming attractions and an improved airport to bounce back from recent down years, Putney reported.
Regulations governing online gambling will take effect Oct. 21.
Nine of the city’s 12 casinos have acknowledged lining up partners for Internet gambling, and a 10th is widely rumored to have selected a partner, as well.
The Tropicana Casino and Resort has joined with Gamesys Limited, which runs the jackpotjoy.com website. The four casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment — Caesars Atlantic City, Bally’s Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resorts Atlantic City and the Showboat Casino Hotel — are partnering with 888 Holdings.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is partnering with bwin.party for online gambling.
Resorts Casino Hotel has joined with PokerStars, the world’s largest poker website, which had tried to buy the Atlantic Club earlier this year before the deal fell apart.
The Taj Mahal Casino Resort chose Ultimate Gaming, which began offering Internet gambling in Nevada earlier this year. Trump Plaza is widely reported by industry publications to have chosen Betfair, the British online gambling firm, although neither the casino nor the company would comment.
The Golden Nugget Atlantic City is offering its own brand of Internet gambling using Bally Technologies.
Revel Casino Hotel and The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel have not divulged their online gambling plans.
As CBS 2′s Christine Sloan reported, there is concern over casino job losses and gamblers getting addicted.
“It’s no different than when you’re at a casino, when you’re playing poker,” the measure’s sponsor State Sen. Ray Lesniak told Sloan. “The games, quite frankly, favor the house.”
Lesniak said it’s a win-win situation for the 12 casinos in Atlantic City that have been struggling.
Each has gotten $10 million from the state to set up gambling websites with different games.
People who rarely go to casinos said they can’t wait to try out the online gambling.
“I’d give it a shot,” a man said.
“Everybody should take a chance,” another New Jersey resident told Sloan.
But some fear that all the devices and 24/7 access to the Internet could spell trouble for those with gambling problems.
“It’s just going to make it too easy for people to get themselves further and further in debt,” Steve Bracciodieta of Union told Sloan.
“I think that the people that have gambling problems, it’s going to make it worse,” Gloria Helmstetter added.
Lesniak said a percentage of the revenues will go to help addicted gamblers.
There’s also concern over casino job losses but the senator dismisses that, saying new technical positions will open up.
Lesniak was also hopeful about expansion of the online gambling systems in the future.
“We expect to ultimately expand this not only nationwide but throughout the world and if we’re able to do that – and I expect we will — it’ll be a big bonanza for our state,” said Lesniak.
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