New Jersey regulators are moving forward with a purpose to have Atlantic City’s casinos up and running with Internet gambling sometime in the fourth quarter of 2013. It’s an aggressive timetable that’s lured an A-list of global operators to the most populous U.S. state yet to legalize the industry. It’s also attracting an array of smaller players intrigued by the prospects of becoming big players.
“It’s going to be a combination of gold rush and laboratory,” said Joe Brennan Jr., director of Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists Interactive Media and Entertainment Gambling Association (IMEGA).
Highly urbanized, sandwiched between the New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, with 9 million residents and access to most of the populous Northeast Corridor, New Jersey will be home to an online market analysts believe can generate anywhere from US$250 million to $600 million a year in the early going.
And interest continues to swirl around a 10th, The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel. PokerStars wanted to buy Atlantic Club but its bid stalled over its past legal troubles with the U.S. Justice Department. Now Sugar House, Philadelphia’s only casino, and Nasdaq-listed racing and gaming giant Churchill Downs are reported to be eyeing the struggling property as a vehicle for getting online in the Garden State.
“The intent is really to be prepared to build anew,” said Vincent Crandon, managing partner of MidOil USA, a co-investor. “It’s not a light endeavor.”
A number of lesser-known suppliers are similarly looking to New Jersey to raise their profiles. Location-verification specialists GeoComply secured a Nevada license in June and filed for approval in New Jersey earlier this month. Based in Las Vegas and headed by Anna Sainsbury, former commercial director for TST, its solution has impressed Bally and Bwin.Party, both of which are integrating it with their U.S.-facing platforms.
“New Jersey is an important market for us and our customers,” Sainsbury says.
MGT Capital Investments is fighting patent battles over gaming systems with Caesars, MGM Resorts International, Penn National Gaming, WMS and Aruze Gaming and sees a New Jersey licence as “an extremely valuable asset for our stockholders” in the words of Chief Executive Robert Ladd. NYSE-MKT-listed and headquartered in New York state, the group’s holdings range from fantasy sports to skill games to games for mobile applications to medical-imaging technologies.
KGM Gaming, based nearby in Philadelphia, does a bit of everything. They’re the East Coast distributor for Ainsworth Technologies. They manufacture their own slot bases, they make casino seating, pit stands, millwork, ATM/TRU enclosures and signs, they provide technical services, and they fix power supplies, bill validators, ticket printers and monitors. They’ve submitted a working remote server for approval (they say they’re the first in New Jersey to have done so) as part of a licensing agreement they’ve concluded with a fledgling slot-maker called Spin Games, based in Reno, Nev. “Agile, aggressive and progressive,” as it calls itself, KGM is negotiating with several Atlantic City operators to introduce Spin’s Robust Online Client, which offers casino-style and numbers games in HTML 5 in online and mobile formats.
Other suppliers looking to make their mark:
• GambleID, a Houston-based provider of data analytics and related technologies for the health-care, oil and gas and financial services industries.
What’s worth noting about New Jersey, finally, is the role it could play in establishing affiliates in the U.S. market. As important as they’ve been to the growth of the European industry they haven’t sparked much interest in the States. But the potential for online to drive land-based traffic is a big part of the thinking in Atlantic City, which has suffered six straight years of declining revenues.
Montreal-based Income Access has a platform that streamlines tracking, reporting and acquisition and marketing analysis.
Privately held ACEP, which owns the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower and the popular Las Vegas locals chain Arizona Charlie’s, has a free-play site that is being tested in Nevada for transition to real money.
“The onus is not to just drive people to online like in Europe. We want to drive people to the property and to online,” says ACEP’s Director of Gaming Development Alec Driscoll. “How can we help drive hotel bookings? How can we help drive show attendance? This is a really smart marketing tool.”
There are certainly a lot of companies eager to supply the shovels to help others dig out the e-gaming gold in the US.