Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City is set to become one of the few casinos in the United States where customers will be able to gamble on a 46-inch LED television while inside their hotel rooms.
Starting Monday, the marina district casino will roll out a 90-day trial of its mobile wagering software to its 2,000 hotel rooms and suites. Checked-in hotel guests with a player’s card will be allowed to turn on their TV set and gamble their money on video slots and poker.
The measure is not to be confused with Internet gambling, which was the subject of a bill the governor conditionally vetoed last week and returned to the Legislature with suggested changes. Under that proposed measure, gamblers could use the Internet to place a wager.
Under the mobile wagering legislation enacted last year, casinos can allow patrons to gamble on a device while anywhere inside an Atlantic City casino resort, such as by the pool or in their hotel room.
While Borgata eventually will allow guests to gamble on smartphones and other mobile devices by the pool or in restaurants, the trial period will restrict mobile wagering to television sets inside the resort’s hotel rooms.
The restriction will allow Borgata to keep costs low by leveraging the $6 million in in-room technology investments the resort made last year as part of its $50 million hotel renovation, rather than investing in a whole new platform, said Tom Ballance, Borgata’s president and chief operating officer.
“The incremental investment in in-room gaming was small,” he said.
The move also will allow the casino to fine-tune its server technology in anticipation of New Jersey one day legalizing Internet gambling, officials said. The technology used to host mobile gambling is similar to that of Internet wagering.
“Let’s take this facet of mobile and work with the room technology to begin with,” said John Forelli, vice president of information technology at Borgata, who spent a year working on the technology.
Under the trial program, patrons must first check in to a Borgata hotel room, where — as long as they are not underage, not on a self-excluded gambling list and participate in Borgata’s players program — they will be given a password for the television gambling software. To gamble on the TV, patrons must enter that password, which is valid only for however long the patron is checked in to the hotel, and the PIN associated with their player’s card.
Patrons must first walk to the cashier’s cage on the casino floor and deposit the money with which they will gamble. Under New Jersey’s mobile gambling regulations, patrons can gamble up to $2,500 a day.
The daily betting limit helps curb compulsive gambling behavior, although Donald Weinbaum, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, said he is concerned gamblers will be wagering behind closed doors and away from surveillance.
While patrons will be asked to re-key in their password and PIN if the system is left inactive for 15 minutes, that would not prevent a minor or a self-excluded person from being exposed to the gambling action or participating at times, Weinbaum said.
“The reality is they don’t know who’s playing,” he said of Borgata. “It could be a group of young people, some under age, some not. ... There’s no real way to monitor that.”
To roll out the new system, Borgata partnered with Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Allin Interactive, which said it is the largest interactive-television provider to the cruise line industry.
Cruise ships that offer this in-room technology to their guests find peak playing time to be during the early mornings, late at night and during the two hours before dinner, said John Troutwine, the company’s senior vice president of business development.
It’s unclear whether patrons at casino resorts will have different gambling habits, particularly because those casinos are open 24 hours a day, unlike on cruise ships.
“We’re doing this as a pilot,” Troutwine said of Borgata’s program. “We’re all keen to get data out of this on who is playing and how much they are playing.”
In-room television gambling exists in Europe, but it’s also not proven popular, said Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine. While casinos in Las Vegas don’t offer the amenity, they do provide mobile gambling on smartphones and other devices. That technology also hasn’t proved popular, other than for sports betting, he said.
Based on that experience, Gros said, he doesn’t expect the activity to prove to be a big moneymaker for Borgata.
“It’s going to be pretty much of a wash,” he said. “A few players will like it.”
Still, the amenity is a change from the past, when casinos did everything they could to draw patrons from out of their rooms and onto the casino floor, Gros said. Borgata’s new offering may be a recognition that if patrons are going to be in their room, they may as well be given a chance to gamble, he said.
Contact Hoa Nguyen: