Borgata first to gain N.J. web gaming permit

David Rebuck (left), Division of Gaming Enforcement director, and Tom Ballance, president and chief operating officer of Borgata.
David Rebuck (left), Division of Gaming Enforcement director, and Tom Ballance, president and chief operating officer of Borgata. (GREGG KOHL)
Posted: October 11, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY With online gaming set to launch in Atlantic City on Nov. 26, the Borgata on Wednesday became the first of the resort town's dozen casinos to receive an online gaming permit from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

"We are honored to receive New Jersey's first Internet gaming permit," Tom Ballance, president and chief operating officer of Borgata, said in a statement. "Borgata and bwin.party are aggressively pursuing our objective of being among the first to launch online gaming in the state," he said, referring to the casino's online partner.

"We believe online gaming is an exciting growth opportunity for New Jersey's gaming industry," Ballance said, "one that will generate significant benefits for the state as New Jersey assumes a leadership role in this emerging form of gaming entertainment."

The Legislature passed a measure that Gov. Christie signed Feb. 27, clearing the way for online wagering and allowing New Jersey to join Nevada and Delaware as the only to offer some form of online gaming.

Under New Jersey's constitution, Atlantic City has exclusivity on gambling, which is why the servers for online gaming must be housed at the 12 Shore casinos.

A patron can gamble online anytime as long as GPS technology confirms that he or she is within the state's borders with a laptop, smartphone, or other locatable device. For instance, a Philadelphian visiting Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford or waiting for a plane at Newark Liberty Airport would be permitted to wager online.

To get started, the patron will need to log onto a website operated and owned by any of the Atlantic City casinos that offer an online option.

Play begins once the gambler passes the security protocols to confirm his or her age (21 or older), casino account, and other information.

In preparation for the Nov. 26 launch, all but three of the casinos - Revel, Atlantic Club, and Trump Plaza - have disclosed their online gaming partners.

"This is a big step toward the opening of the regulated market for online gaming in New Jersey next month," said John Shepherd, spokesman for bwin.party. "We're working very closely with our 'blue chip' partner to launch Borgata-branded poker and casino sites and our partypoker site, which will also offer casino games, on Day One of the opening of the New Jersey market."

While Borgata is with bwin.party, the other alliances are: Tropicana with Gamesys Ltd.; the four casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment Inc. - Caesars, Bally's, Harrah's Resort, and Showboat - with 888 Holdings; Resorts Atlantic City with PokerStars; Trump Taj Mahal with Ultimate Gaming; and Golden Nugget Atlantic City offering its own brand of Internet gaming using software by Bally Technologies.

The Borgata, the most technologically advanced among Atlantic City's gambling houses, became the first casino in the United States to offer in-room gambling from a TV remote control this year. Borgata executives said at the time that the development was in preparation for online gaming.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement said casino guests would be able to start Internet gaming after a five-day trial period, starting Nov. 21, to make sure the systems work properly. If all goes smoothly, the casinos can begin full Internet gaming Nov. 26.

Wall Street analysts project that online gaming in its first year has the potential to generate at least $250 million in new revenue for the struggling resort.

"Our view is that the first year of Internet gaming will not be big and margins will be low," analyst John Kempf of RBC Capital Markets L.L.C. said Wednesday. "Borgata should have first-mover advantage because they are first in building market share. But in the end, we view it more as a mild than significant positive."

Atlantic City has lost over 40 percent of its gaming revenue - down from a peak of $5.2 billion in 2006 to just over $3 billion last year - from its casinos to new ones in states like Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland.

During a meeting with the Inquirer Editorial Board last month, Ballance said he viewed online gaming "as an opportunity" to make up some of that decline.

"With a lot of the market we've lost to convenience gaming [in other states], this is another opportunity to capture that convenience trip," he said. "We expect to see some [revenue] growth by tapping a whole new market."


sparmley@phillynews.com

856-779-3928 @SuzParmley

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