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Will sports betting be a 'game changer' for Atlantic City?

ATLANTIC CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday to open the door for legalized sports betting throughout the country has politicians and gaming operators seeing dollar signs, but some industry experts are urging caution against the idea that it is a total game-changer.

The American Gaming Association estimates Americans spend nearly $150 billion per year on illegal sports betting. In Nevada, the only state where single-game sports wagering was legal before Monday, $4.9 billion was gambled on sports in 2017, of which casinos netted close to $250 million — 2.2 percent of the total casino win — and the state’s cut was just shy of $17 million.

In other words, there’s big money on the table.

But even when New Jersey passes a law to regulate and tax sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks — which it could do early next month — the new additional gaming option may not generate a financial windfall for Atlantic City.

“Sports betting will not contribute substantially to either gross gaming revenue or state tax revenue,” Fitch Ratings said within hours of the high court’s ruling.

Anthony Marino, a local gaming analyst, said sports betting will certainly help the casino industry in Atlantic City but added he believed “many locals are too hyped on its potential to be another one of those ‘game-changers.’” Marino noted that neighboring states would likely enter the sports-betting market and that sports bettors are selective in what they wager on, focusing on major events. He also said online and mobile wagering, while the revenue still goes to casinos and racetracks, will continue to lure visitors from the resort.

But the biggest concern, Marino said, is the unintended consequences of legalized sports betting in New Jersey in the form of a previously vanquished foe.

“The two major New Jersey racetracks, Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands, will jump into the market,” he said. “Once they add sports betting parlors to horse racing, they will begin lobbying to allow a third amenity for their patrons — slot machines. In short, this will breathe new life into the central and North Jersey support for racing/casino alternatives to Atlantic City.”

The good news is Atlantic City is ahead of the curve because of existing gaming institutions and a blueprint from Las Vegas, said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group. Pollock said Atlantic City needs to leverage its existing assets, such as the beach, marina and Boardwalk, to truly capitalize on legalized sports betting.

“It’s a game changer if it’s wielded effectively,” Pollock said. “Atlantic City (casino) operators have a tool that they did not have before. How they wield it is going to determine how much that game changes.”

Stockton housing filling up at Atlantic City campus

ATLANTIC CITY — The rooms are yet to be furnished, but most of the beds have been filled at Stockton University’s Gateway campus, officials said this week.

“We’re doing really well. We’re more than 85 percent full in the building,” said Haley Baum, assistant dean of students for Atlantic City.

The new Atlantic City campus is expected to open in September, and both the university and city are preparing for the more than 500 students who will be living in the Chelsea section of the city come fall.

Students living on the island campus don’t necessarily have to take classes in the city, Baum said.

“Some students will have more than half of their classes in Atlantic City, some students will have one course, and some might not have any,” she said. “We have some students that just prefer to live in Atlantic City.”

Baum said 450 of the 533 residential spots available to students at the Boardwalk dorm have been filled. About 70 of those spots will be year-round residents, she said.

The university has announced more than 100 courses to be available in Atlantic City in the fall. A shuttle will be available to take students between Atlantic City and the main campus in Galloway Township from early in the morning until after midnight.

After four years of living on the Galloway campus, Marissa Chin, of Matawan, Monmouth County, will live in Atlantic City this fall while pursuing a graduate degree.

“I’m just very excited for the opportunity to live in Atlantic City. It will be very different from the Stockton I know,” Chin said on a recent episode of The Press’ Atlantic City Story podcast.

La-Tasha Randolph, of Irvington, another graduate student, said living in Atlantic City makes her feel like a freshman again.

“Going to Atlantic City is like, ‘Oh, what are they doing this day?’ Or ‘What community events are happening?’ Randolph said. “It gives you something else to look forward to.”

As for the remaining spots in the city dorm, Baum said they will likely be filled with a mix of current and transfer students by the end of the summer.

She said there will be tours of the new campus throughout the summer. The move-in date is still being finalized, Baum said.

GALLERY: Look at the new Stockton Gateway project

In preparation for the influx of students this fall, the city plans to designate the blocks around the campus in the Chelsea section of the city as a University District.

Sixth Ward Councilman Jesse O. Kurtz said he has been reaching out to local businesses to prepare them for the influx of new customers and residents, including adding bike racks.

“It’s a little touch, but I think it will be very helpful to students who aren’t going to have a car,” Kurtz said, adding he is encouraging bike travel on and off the Boardwalk.

Kurtz said he has reached out to businesses to assist them in transitioning their inventory and hours to better suit the new clientele.

“With these new students coming on board, there is more of a need for restaurants with later hours, takeout,” he said. “The key for me is making sure that the local merchants are aware of the different resources (available) to them, so that they can take advantage of this new wave of economic activity.”

Kurtz said he wants the students to make Atlantic City their home, not just during the semester, but after. He said he hopes they see it as a place where they can be a part of the “civic fiber.”

Baum said she was particularly excited for the students taking advantage of the 12-month lease option at the dorm.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever offered that,” she said. “Some might have summer classes. Some might have summer internships. … Some might just really love the idea of living on the beach and Boardwalk through the summer.”

Atlantic City considers University District zone near Stockton

ATLANTIC CITY — As part of an effort to transform the city blocks around Stockton University and to spur economic development there, officials are trying to dub the area a University District.

City Council introduced an ordinance last month that would implement a University District Overlay Zone in the area around Stockton — a move that would give the green light for the university to equip the streets with banners, signs and provide a designation for Stockton’s territory.

“We’re developing a plan to utilize banners that will help to designate the parameters of the University District,” said Brian Jackson, chief operating officer for Stockton’s Atlantic City campus. “We think that it will really bring some life to the neighborhood, having that physical identity and creating that campus atmosphere within an urban setting.”

The ordinance on second reading was tabled at Wednesday night’s council meeting but should be up for final approval once it is approved by the Planning Board, which meets next month.

The University District would run along Albany Avenue from the Boardwalk to Bader Field and be bordered by Sovereign and Dover avenues, according to the ordinance.

Sixth Ward Councilman Jesse Kurtz, one of the sponsors of the ordinance, said the area around the university — empty storefronts, restaurants, small businesses and homes — could be boosted with this designation.

“Fundamentally, it’s meant to define that territory around Stockton, as well as that corridor, to rebrand it as this University District,” Kurtz said. “It’s to attract investment and development in that initial corridor and a couple blocks around Stockton.”

Once established, the area would provide a “sense of identity” and could help attract new businesses and homebuyers, along with potential grants and tax incentives, Jackson said.

The university district designation that encompasses the Rutgers—Camden campus has provided benefits to both the university and city, said Mike Sepanic, the associate chancellor for external relations at Rutgers University Camden.

“It’s a real opportunity to welcome folks into the city of Camden with familiar names and logos,” Sepanic said.

The designation, along with a stable structure like the university campus, welcomes businesses such as retailers and eateries that are essential for students and could also be used by residents, he said. The district has had an impact on the immediate neighborhoods to enable “students, faculty and staff to be more engaged in the city,” he said.

While the Stockton district is still in the planning stages, Jackson said, officials hope to offer additional incentives for businesses within the district. For example, Stockton is measuring business’ interest in using the Osprey Card program, in which they would accept student and faculty ID cards that are used like a debit card.

Some businesses have already expressed interest, Jackson said.

“Our effort is to not be in Atlantic City, but be a part of Atlantic City. It’s important that we integrate,” Jackson said.

Paola Muriel, an assistant manager at BOOM Market that sits on Ventnor Avenue across the street from the new Stockton building, said her store is already thinking about ways to expand its inventory to prepare for the growing population in the area.

Muriel said the store is talking about collaborating with Stockton to link with student and faculty accounts.

“It will bring a lot of students to the area,” Muriel said. “Where we’re located, I think that’s going to be perfect for business.”

Muriel added that the opening of the campus and with it a university-district feel would help keep the city busy and “keep the businesses moving.”

“It’s going to be a big improvement,” she said.

Cape May County sheriff’s officer found not guilty in sex assault case

MAYS LANDING — A sergeant with the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office was found not guilty of sexually assaulting a subordinate Wednesday morning.

Sgt. Jay H. Gaskill, 37, of Middle Township, was acquitted of second-degree sexual assault and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact charges for two separate incidents involving a subordinate sheriff’s officer in the Cape May County Courthouse Security Unit while they were both off duty.

“We were very happy that the jury saw that the state’s case was not credible and the charges were false,” Gaskill’s lawyer, John Tumelty, said during a phone interview after the verdict.

Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland said he was displeased with the decision.

“While we are disappointed in the jury’s verdict, we respect their verdict and we appreciate all of their hard work and thank them for their service in this case,” Sutherland said.

Antwan McClellan, public information officer for the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, declined to comment on the verdict or whether Gaskill’s employment status had changed Wednesday afternoon, saying it’s a personnel matter.

Gaskill was charged in an April 2015 alleged assault that occurred in the back of the victim’s car in the courthouse parking lot, as well as a similar incident several months earlier, Tumelty said.

“Our defense from the beginning was that this was completely consensual and nothing that came close to a crime in the vehicle,” Tumelty said. “Jay feels completely vindicated and looks forward to getting back to work immediately.”

Gaskill has been suspended without pay for a year and a half, he added.

The trial started with jury selection May 7, after the case was moved from Cape May County to Atlantic County Superior Court be-fore Judge Bernard E. DeLury.

Gaskill was arrested Dec. 12, 2016, and indicted by a grand jury March 28, 2017.

The Prosecutor’s Office said it was not informed of the alleged assault until late 2016, previous reports said.