One of Europe’s leading Internet gambling companies says it will be ready to launch online betting in partnership with Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa as soon as New Jersey gives the go-ahead this fall.
“Our aim is to be there on Day 1,” said John Shepherd, director of corporate communications for Bwin.party.
The Gibraltar-based Bwin.party is best known for its pokerparty.com brand and the World Poker Tour franchise. It has entered into an Internet partnership with Boyd Gaming Corp. and MGM Resorts International, the co-owners of Borgata.
Casino companies are lining up technology providers in advance of New Jersey’s foray into the emerging world of online betting, which is expected to grow into a multibillion-dollar enterprise in the next few years.
“Everybody is going to be jockeying for position,” Shepherd said of what is expected to be intense competition for the online market.
Online gambling will become an $8.5 billion business in the U.S. within five years, according to estimates by Linwood-based casino consulting company Spectrum Gaming Group. Spectrum estimated Atlantic City casinos will initially reap $400 million in annual revenue from New Jersey’s online gambling operations.
Casinos are still waiting for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to announce the official “go live” date for Internet gambling. Nov. 26 is the statutory deadline, but the date could be pushed back if regulators believe more time is needed to implement Atlantic City’s new era of gambling.
Borgata’s online slot wagering and table games will be offered through the borgatapoker.com and borgatacasino.com websites, said Joe Lupo, the casino’s senior vice president of operations. Bwin.party will also have its own website for New Jersey called nj.partypoker.com.
Lupo predicted the partnership with Bwin.party will help Borgata maintain its status as Atlantic City’s top-grossing casino.
“Borgata has aligned ourselves with Europe’s premier Internet provider for online poker,” Lupo said. “We couldn’t be happier. We think it will be a success. We have the full intention of leading the online market, as we do with the brick-and mortar business. Bwin.party’s support, experience and partnership are primary reasons why it will work so successfully here in New Jersey.”
So far, 10 of Atlantic City’s 12 casino hotels have announced their online partners. Revel Casino-Hotel and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel still have not disclosed their plans.
Bwin.party and World Poker Tour executives gave a preview of their plans Wednesday during an interview with The Press of Atlantic City. Shepherd said the company will offer New Jersey gamblers an array of online wagering for slots and table games through a totally refurbished website.
“We’ve spent the last two years rebuilding it from top to bottom,” he said. “It has been changed to keep up with I-gaming technologies. It is faster, cleaner and integrates social media.”
Although some fear Internet gambling may cannibalize business from land-based casinos, Bwin.party views online wagering as an ideal complement to the brick-and-mortar operations.
“In a way, it’s a business feeder to the poker rooms at the casinos,” Shepherd said.
Borgata is in the midst of holding the World Poker Tour championship, a nearly $4 million event that has attracted close to 1,200 players. The tour has announced that it has moved its championship tournament from Las Vegas to Borgata, including television coverage on the Fox Sports Network.
Adam Pliska, president of the World Poker Tour, pointed to the Borgata poker tournament as one of the most obvious examples of how land-based gambling and online betting can be melded.
“The promotion of I-gaming has always been a great complement to the promotion of the poker event,” Pliska said. “Also, Internet gaming is an incentive to have players come to the brick-and-mortar poker tournaments.”
Hollywood star-turned-poker player James Woods, who competed in Borgata’s World Poker Tour tournament, also believes online wagering creates synergies with the regular casino operations. Woods, whose movie career included a role in “Casino,” said online gambling can introduce poker to players who will eventually sharpen their skills and enter real-life tournaments.
“I feel you could never really have one without the other,” Woods said.
Woods noted that in addition to his competition in live poker tournaments, “I was very successful online.” His experience with online gambling included serving as a celebrity spokesman for the website Hollywood Poker.
Internet gambling is regarded as key to reinvigorating the Atlantic City casino market, which is mired in a seven-year revenue decline. Under New Jersey’s Internet gambling law, casinos must have a physical presence in Atlantic City to offer Web bets.
Gamblers will be able to use their home computers, smartphones and other electronic devices to wager online as long as they are within New Jersey’s borders.
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