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Internet gambling seen as big boost to NJ casinos

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Internet gambling will be "a shot in the arm" for Atlantic City's 12 struggling casinos, according to one Wall Street firm.

And a southern New Jersey lawmaker says letting people gamble from their computers or smartphones represents "the ultimate convenience gambling."

Two days after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill making his state the third in the nation to legalize gambling over the Internet, New Jersey and those keeping a close eye on it were sizing up the benefits of the new law.

Moody's Investors Service said Internet gambling is much-needed help for the nation's third-largest gambling market, after Nevada and Pennsylvania.

"The law is a shot in the arm for the 12 existing Atlantic City operators, which have been struggling with weak gaming revenue trends amid new competition from neighboring gaming jurisdictions," said Peggy Holloway, a Moody's vice president.

"While we expect the new law to expand the pool of gamers, it is difficult to estimate how much growth it will generate for the New Jersey gaming market, which last year raked in about $3 billion of gaming revenue," she said in a report issued Thursday. "The new Internet capability will surely draw to gaming some people who don't currently visit casinos. Operators will also have the opportunity to offer online players incentives to visit their facilities in person. On the other hand, there is a risk that Internet gaming will partially cannibalize the brick-and-mortar casinos."

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, one of the sponsors of the bill, predicts Atlantic City will win back a significant part of the market that has abandoned it for options closer to home.

New Jersey is now offering "the ultimate convenience gambling," he said Thursday during an online seminar on the new law, sponsored by Spectrum Gaming Group, an Atlantic City-area consulting firm. "We're going to recapture some of that."

The loss of the "convenience" player is a big part of Atlantic City's casino decline over the last six-plus years. In 2006, when the first casino opened in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City's casino revenues hit an all-time high of $5.2 billion. Last year, they fell to just over $3 billion, marking the sixth straight year the casinos took in less than they had the year before.

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