Atlantic City is ‘far, far from dead.’ That was the takeaway from the two-day East Coast Gaming Conference at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center this week, as keynote speaker New Jersey Senate President Jim Sweeney sought to reassure attendees that the city would endure.
New Jersey State Senator Jim Sweeney, who spoke at this week’s East Coast Gaming Conference, is optimistic about Atlantic City’s chances of a rebound, despite a history of financial turmoil.
Despite the political turmoil and financial disarray that have besieged the resort town in recent months, ‘the best for Atlantic City is in front of us,’ he insisted.
The beachfront city has been on the verge of bankruptcy, but on May 26, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill that will loan AC $75 million, giving it five months to get its finances in order. Failing that, the state could still take over.
A separate bill, passed the same day, will allow casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes, allowing them to budget known payment amounts rather than deal with fluctuating property values. Both bills are now sitting on Governor Chris Christie’s desk, awaiting sign-off.
Casino revenues have remained steady throughout this period of upheaval, and operating profits for the first quarter are up on last year. Which could be signs that despite its alarming bank balance, the city is ready for a rebound.
The local casino industry had a terrible 2014, with four of its 12 casinos closing, but this is the very reason for its resurgence, Sweeney said. Rather than being over saturated, as before, the market is now ‘right-sized’ he claimed.
He also cited the proposed expansion of gambling beyond Atlantic City and into North Jersey, a motion that would help the city recoup revenue lost to neighboring states like Pennsylvania, which have regulated casino in recent times.
If approved, Atlantic City would receive up to $20 million a year from taxes on the new casinos in the north, as compensation for ending its 40-year monopoly. The issue is due to go to a public vote in November, and remains highly controversial, with strong opinions for and against.
‘When we came up with legislation to expand gaming, it was to ensure Atlantic City would benefit and have the funding to diversify its economy,’ Sweeney said.
Operators Cross Swords Over Northern Expansion
The New Jersey casino expansion issue was a hotly debated issue at the conference, and Resorts Hotel CEO and President Mark Giannantonio made it clear he did not share Sweeney’s enthusiasm for the idea. He claimed that his company would soon be publishing a study showing that expansion would impact the city severely, and that it could lose three to five more casinos as a result.
New Meadowlands Racetrack CEO Jeff Gural, who has teamed up with the Hard Rock International on a North Jersey casino proposal, called Giannantonio’s assertion ‘crazy.’ He added that Atlantic City operators should be delighted with the compensation package, which would go to city coffers, rather than the casinos directly.
‘To get to your casino, you have to drive through a slum. You need it more than anybody,’ he snapped.
The somewhat abysmal surrounding areas of the casinos in Atlantic City have long been a thorn in the gambling resort’s side.
New Responsible Gambling Trust Research Highlights Possible Social Cost of FOBTs
FOBT’s: Ethnic minorities are five time more likely to have a problem than whites, says study. (Image: sbcnews.co.uk)
The UK’s controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) took a pummeling this week from research commissioned by the betting industry-funded Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT).
The machines allow betting shop customers to wager up to £100 ($157) every 20 seconds on fixed odds games, usually roulette, and their proliferation throughout Britain has invited endless media comparisons with crack cocaine.
The research found that problem gamblers, ethnic minorities and the unemployed were more likely to bet max, on the machines, adding fuel to the theory that FOBTs target the vulnerable, and are creating social problems and an increase in crime.
The study also found that rates of problem gambling are slightly higher among people who live near ‘clusters’ of bookmakers shops, ie, within 500 yards of three or more shops, than those who don’t. Twenty-eight percent of participants who lived in clustered areas were problem gamblers compared with 22 percent of those who had fewer bookmakers in the area.
The research used a sample size of around 5,000 customers of bookmaking shops, but it noted that since all respondents were loyalty card holders, they were already ‘highly engaged’ gamblers and therefore more disposed to problem gambling and could not be said to represent the general population.
While £100 bets represented just 0.26 percent of all FOBT bets, their occurrences tended to increase toward the end of a session, as the size of stakes increase as bettors chased their losses.
The chances of being a problem gambler are five times higher if you’re a member of an ethnic minority group than if you are White/White British, the study found. And meanwhile, unemployed people are twice as likely to be problem gamblers as the gainfully employed.
RGT Answers Critics
RGT, which is the UK’s leading gambling charity, has been criticized for failing to address the issue of the addictiveness of FOBTs in its research. It has also been accused, as an industry-funded organization, of failing to ask the really tough questions of the betting industry, although the research published this week would appear to vindicate it on that charge.
‘This research poses some challenging questions for the bookmaking industry, for regulators and for ministers, on the effect of clustering and the maximum stakes on FOBTs in particular,’ said Marc Etches, chief executive of the RGT.
‘The Responsible Gambling Trust’s focus is not just about funding treatment, it’s about preventing the harm and misery caused by problem gambling. Today’s findings show promising development in the potential to identify risky patterns of play on gaming machines and, therefore, design more effective intervention methods in the future.’
Poker in Nevada Stays Stagnant but Reports Remain Encouraging
Nevada poker profits remain stagnant, but small details reveal some potentially positive news for the state. (Image: Caesars.com)
Poker in Nevada remained virtually static between 2015 and 2016 according to the latest revenue report by the state’s Gaming Control Board.
Reporting on the period for April 2016, the Nevada Gaming Control Board stated that its network of live and online poker tables generated a total of $8.57 million in revenue.
Players in Nevada have the option to ante-up at 647 live poker tables as well as a selection of online games at WSOP.com and Real Gaming; which is slightly less than the number available in 2015.
Fewer Tables, Greater Profits
However, despite the number of live tables dropping down from 652, revenue in the state was up by 0.86 percent compared to April 2015. By most measures this would suggest that Nevada’s poker economy is doing no better and no worse than it was last year.
However, with fewer tables on offer, it does suggest that players are wagering slightly more than they have before.
Naturally, with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) set to get underway on May 31, the state’s poker rooms are preparing for a busy summer. Traditionally the WSOP pushes revenue to record highs and there’s every chance things will be the same this year.
In fact, with WSOP.com streamlining the online registration process and offering another bracelet event this year, there’s likely to be a spike in traffic online as well as live.
Swings for Casino and Sports Betting
Elsewhere in the Nevada gambling world, casino revenue fell while sports betting hit record levels. Following a year-on-year decline in March 2016, Nevada’s casino suffered another drop in casino revenue in April.
Running the numbers, the Nevada Gaming Control Board found that April 2016’s $876 million takings were 24 percent lower than the same period in 2015. Fortunately, strong performances by the state’s sportsbooks helped stem the flow of any leaks on the casino gaming floor.
The start of the baseball season, coupled with continued interest in basketball, meant that sports books handled $292 million in April. The net result of this record level of betting was a $13.5 million win for sportsbooks which represents a 70 percent increase same period last year.
As is the case with poker revenue, increased tourism and the presence of the WSOP over the coming weeks should drive up revenue even further as gamblers fly in from the four corner of the globe ready for a summer of excess.
The NFL and Gambling: 26 of 32 Teams Play Within One-Hour Drive of a Casino
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opposes sports betting, but half of his league’s 32 teams play their home games within 11 miles of a casino. (Image: sportingnews.com)
The NFL’s relationship with the gambling industry has been about as cordial as a Redskins and Cowboys game, and the league’s disgust for casinos and sports betting has been on full display in recent months after Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis expressed interest in moving the franchise to Las Vegas.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has correctly stated that the decision to approve the Raiders to Sin City would ultimately be up to the league’s owners, but the NFL itself continues to oppose any form of gambling that could potentially jeopardize the integrity of the game.
American Gaming Association (AGA) President Geoff Freeman responded to Goodell in late April by saying, ‘Nothing threatens the integrity of sports more than a thriving and opaque sports betting black market.’
The AGA doubled down on revealing what it believes to be hypocrisy on the part of the NFL by exposing the fact that more than 80 percent of teams currently play their home games within an hour’s drive of a casino.
‘Concerns about athletes playing games in Las Vegas are dramatically misinformed. It’s time for a fresh look at the sports betting prohibition that is pushing widely popular sports betting activity to an illegal market that threatens the integrity of the sports we love,’ Freeman pronounced.
Watch a Game, Play a Game
NFL brass have opined for years that allowing a team to play in Las Vegas would lead to an influx in sports betting and could seduce players into either gambling on their games or entering illegal agreements with criminals.
Sports betting is currently only offered at Nevada casinos. The state received immunity from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) when it was passed in 1992 due to the state’s already legalized sportsbooks.
Though casinos outside of the Silver State are prohibited from offering odds on sports, the AGA highlighted on May 25 that 16 of the NFL’s 32 teams play within 11 miles of a casino. For a league so opposed to gambling, it is quite ironic that so many stadiums are neighbored by gambling facilities.
As Casino.org reported, sports betting revenue hit record levels in April by generating $292 million in handles for a $13.5 million win for sportsbooks.
The NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, the Big Four of the United States, have all traditionally opposed sports betting, but that has quickly changed when it comes to the National Basketball Association.
NBA Commission Adam Silver, who is embarking on just his third year as boss of basketball, has freely expressed his stance that sportsbooks on the NBA should be legal and regulated.
During a recent conversation with ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter,’ Silver said that his job is to ‘protect the integrity of the game,’ but ‘if you don’t have an open exchange you can’t know.’
‘I think it should be legal. . . It should be transparent,’ Silver stated.
Goodell and the NFL have embraced daily fantasy sports (DFS), which came as a surprise to many. Some 40 states now have some form of gambling, and New Jersey remains diligent in fighting to end sports betting prohibition in its state.