Online gambling will help increase the demand for casinos and could be the industry’s “lifeblood,” according to state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who served on a panel discussion of Internet gambling Thursday in Atlantic City.
“The demand is going to be the lifeblood,” Lesniak, D-Union, said at the East Coast Gaming Congress, a two-day casino conference held at Revel. “The way to increase that demand is for online gaming and sports betting.”
Lesniak sponsored a bill that recently passed state committee review, which if approved by the full Legislature, would legalize online gambling in New Jersey and make it the first state to allow Internet betting. He said he believes Internet gambling would be key to Atlantic City’s success.
A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie last year due to constitutional concerns, which some officials said may have been answered by a recent federal Department of Justice opinion.
“I believe the governor wants to get on board,” Lesniak said. “I’m certain that this governor doesn’t want to see a casino closed on his watch.”
While New Jersey and other states appeared to be barreling toward legalizing Internet gambling, the prospects for federal acceptance were unlikely and naive, said Richard Bronson, the chairman of the U.S. Digital Gaming company.
“This should and will occur on a state-by-state basis,” he said of Internet gambling laws. “There is no doubt that within the next year one or two states will do it.”
Countries in Europe already have legalized Internet gambling. Based on their experience, the United States would benefit from a federal law so that regulations across municipalities could be standardized, according to David Clifton, a licensing and gaming partner for Joelson Wilson LLP in London.
“You have the opportunity to learn from Europe’s mistakes,” he said.
Clifton also warned that if Internet gambling is not legalized in the United States, that would just encourage activity in unregulated markets overseas.
Several firms with experience in Internet gambling also made a pitch for their experience in the field, saying it would be important for traditional casinos looking to get into the field to work with partners who are licensed and experienced.
“It is totally different than what you experience today,” said William Scott, vice president of strategic business development for Gtech G2, an Internet gaming service provider.
While some traditional casinos still batch some of their transactions, the online world often requires a real-time response time, he said. For instance, if a new game was added in the morning, officials need to stay on top of it.
“If it’s not working, five minutes later you take it down,” Scott said.
Online gambling also can add value to traditional casinos because the Internet games appeal to younger players and would encourage them to visit, observers said. Gamblers like casinos because there is a social element to them.
“There is a strong overlap,” said Eamonn Toland, president of Paddy Power North America. “There is certainly a great deal of synergy as long as you can get everything right.”
While concerns have been raised about regulating Internet gambling, industry experts said online technology provides more tools to identify problem gamblers by their behavior than in a traditional casino. Problem gamblers also can more easily be blocked through their credit card information and device they use to connect than someone who goes into a casino and uses cash.
“We also have found the incidence of problem gambling has not gone up,” Toland said.
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