Atlantic City Worries About Online Gaming

Will it give gamblers a reason to stay home?

The arrival of online gaming in New Jersey was supposed to help save the industry there—and it may, but the Inquirer today reports that Atlantic City’s boosters worry the city won’t benefit.

Online gaming and the alliance may be at cross purposes. The two-year-old alliance is spending $30 million a year to encourage visitors to come and spend money in the city’s casinos, restaurants, and hotels. One can’t “Do AC” – the name of the alliance’s marketing campaign that began last year – by staying home and gambling from an iPhone or laptop.

“Our view is that there will be some cannibalization, primarily in the poker room,” said gaming analyst John Kempf of RBC Capital Markets L.L.C. “But [online gaming] is not a very profitable area for the bricks-and-mortar casino. The cannibalization on the casino floor will be minimal.

The launch of Internet gaming marked the most significant expansion of gambling in New Jersey since Atlantic City’s first casino, Resorts, opened in 1978. But it comes at a precarious time.

The city’s annual gaming revenue has plunged from a peak of $5.2 billion in 2006 to less than $3 billion in 2012. This year has brought more of the same, as third-quarter casino profits fell 8.1 percent from the previous year, the Division of Gaming Enforcement said last week.

When you can gamble everywhere, it seems, nowhere in particular becomes the best place to gamble.