US waiting to see if online bet is a winner

Casino operators are keen to know if  New Jersey’s internet foray will restore the sector’s fortunes

As bargain-hungry Americans braved crowded malls to hunt down Thanksgiving deals last week, some New Jersey residents decided to visit Atlantic City – from the comfort of their living room.

They could do so because of new rules legalising online gambling across the Garden State. Six Atlantic City casinos have set up virtual storefronts thus far, with customers creating more than 50,000 online gambling accounts since a trial period began last month.

The push is being watched across the nation: New Jersey, though the third state to legalise online gambling after Delaware and California, is by far the biggest in terms of population.

It also has the broadest regime, with the expansion extending beyond poker to a broader range of casino games. According to the analysts at the ratings agency Fitch, New Jersey’s move could generate up to $300m (£183m) in revenues in 2014, a figure that could rise to as much as $750m in subsequent years.

The state’s Republican Governor, Chris Christie, is even more optimistic: he expects about $1bn in revenues by July.

The big question is whether the online push will hurt business at the bricks-and-mortar casinos that populate Atlantic City, where annual gaming revenues have declined from over $5bn in 2006 to under $3bn, due largely, according to Fitch, “to the development of neighbouring markets”.

While online gambling won’t in itself revive the broader gaming business in New Jersey, lawmakers are betting that the new push will supplement, not eat into, business at Atlantic City’s casinos, and thus provide a much-needed shot in the arm to the industry.

If it works, the New Jersey experiment could become a template for other American states that are waiting in the wings with pro-online gambling legislation.

“Without online gaming, two casinos would have closed and 5,000 to 10,000 people would have been out of jobs in Atlantic City,” state senator Raymond Lesniak told The  Star-Ledger of New Jersey last week, explaining why the Governor, who is seen as a possible Republican Presidential candidate in 2016, “ultimately came around to signing legislation he had vetoed the year before last”.

The six casinos that have been granted permits have set up websites powered by various platforms, including Bwin, 888 and Betfair, which, in a half-yearly update to investors in London this week, singled out the US as an attractive long-term market for its business. Of its foray in New Jersey, for which it has partnered with the Trump Plaza Casino, Betfair said the initial signs had been promising.

Beyond New Jersey, research from the National Conference of State Legislatures, a non-governmental organisation that tracks policy across the US, shows eight states – California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Texas – are hoping to jump on the bandwagon.

Those in favour of legalisation say that prohibition simply plays into the hands of black market operators, with the American Gaming Association, an industry group, claiming that “Americans spent nearly $3bn gambling with rogue offshore operators” last year.

“The internet cannot be forced back into the bottle – nor can market demand,” the group’s president, Geoff Freeman, said this month.

“New government efforts to prohibit online gaming will unintentionally strengthen black market providers, create more risk for American consumers, including children, and drive US jobs and potential revenues overseas.”

The opposition isn’t sitting back, however, with the billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson reported to be preparing a public campaign aimed at convincing Congress to ban internet gambling. Mr Adelson, a prominent backer of Mitt Romney’s ill-fated Presidential run in 2012 and the chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corp casino business, created waves across the industry when he signalled his opposition to online gambling in a Forbes op-ed article published earlier this year.

He argued that not only would legalisation have a negative economic impact by hitting industry jobs, but said that “the plague it could bring to our society is even more far-reaching”.

“Online gambling makes it possible for bets to be placed by anyone at any time.

“When gambling is available in every bedroom, every dorm room and every office space, there will be no way to fully determine that each wager has been placed in a rational and consensual manner,” he said. According to The Washington Post, the billionaire has now hired lobbyists across the country to fight back against the online gambling push.

Next month, he is planning launch an advocacy group called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling to further press his case. Three former elected officials - the first African-American mayor of Denver, Wellington Webb, former US Senator Blanche Lincoln and former New York governor George Pataki - have been hired to speak for the group as national co-chairs.

“I am willing to spend whatever it takes,” Mr Adelson told Forbes this month after news of his plans first surfaced,  setting the stage for a major political fight over the issue  in 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IFA Based

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions