In the latest evolution of gambling, New Jersey has approved new regulations that will allow Atlantic City casino customers to place bets on smartphones, iPads and other wireless handheld devices.
Mobile gambling will be allowed within the boundaries of a casino hotel, including at poolside, in dining areas and guest rooms. It will not be permitted in garages or parking lots.
“We are looking forward to having Atlantic City casinos take advantage of mobile gaming and we see these regulations as one more step in the expansion of gaming opportunities afforded to Atlantic City customers,” David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said in a statement Tuesday announcing the regulations.
However, the timeframe for mobile gambling to go live in Atlantic City remains unclear. Casinos will first have to receive final regulatory approval. Lisa Spengler, a Division of Gaming Enforcement spokeswoman, said no casinos have submitted formal proposals yet.
The technology will literally put gambling in the palm of someone’s hand. Using wireless devices, customers will be able to bet on slot machines and table games while lounging at the pool, sitting in a restaurant, relaxing in their hotel rooms or roaming around other parts of the property, except for the parking areas.
Tony Rodio, president and chief executive officer of Tropicana Casino and Resort, said mobile gambling is not expected to generate a lot of revenue for casinos but does move Atlantic City closer toward a bigger prize — Internet gambling.
“It’s a tiny step in the direction toward Internet gambling. I think it’s a nice amenity we can offer in Atlantic City,” said Rodio, who also serves as the president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade group representing Atlantic City casinos.
New Jersey now joins Nevada in legalizing the mobile devices, which are at the forefront of the casino industry’s efforts to appeal to a new generation of tech-savvy gamblers. Mobile technology would allow casinos to capitalize on the emerging Internet gambling phenomenon or on sports betting, both of which need legislative or court approval to become legal in New Jersey.
“I think it’s a good thing. It’s nice to see New Jersey at the forefront of new gaming technology,” said Christopher Soriano, a gaming attorney with the Duane Morris law firm in Cherry Hill. “This would be an enhancement for people who may not want to play the traditional table games or slot machines but who are still in the casinos.”
Soriano believes that enough safeguards are built into the regulations to prevent abuses, including underage gambling and cheating. He added, though, that casinos may hesitate to introduce cutting-edge technology.
“I’m hopeful we would see it by the end of the year,” Soriano said. “I’m somewhat cautious in saying that, because I think everybody will move a little slower in this area, especially the casinos.”
Like with all new technology, casinos must decide whether it is worth the investment. Uncertainty over the legality of Internet gambling could delay casinos from introducing the mobile devices.
Under New Jersey law, customers will be able to gamble on their own smartphones, electronic tablets or on mobile devices issued by the casinos. They must set up mobile accounts to ensure they are at least 21 years old, New Jersey’s legal age to gamble. They would be barred from creating accounts if they are on New Jersey’s list of prohibited gamblers.
“Most importantly in this process was the development of regulations that provided safeguards to prevent underage gambling and to continually ensure the integrity and security of mobile gaming in New Jersey,” Rebuck said.
The devices would be passcode-protected for added security. They would include technology to lock out any gambling once the customers are off the casino property.
Mobile gambling represents the latest technological innovation in the casino industry. Revel, Atlantic City’s newest casino, introduced server-based slot machines when it opened in April. Those slots are downloadable and allow the payouts, denominations and game themes to be changed almost instantly with a simple keystroke, avoiding the cumbersome, manual process required for similar changes in regular slot machines.
Atlantic City boosters hope mobile gambling is another attraction that will give the resort town an edge over rival casinos in surrounding states. Atlantic City is in the midst of a six-year revenue slump caused by the fragile economy and fierce competition from regional gambling, particularly casinos in Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think it’s a big game-changer. But I certainly do think it is another attraction that gives us an amenity that our regional competitors don’t have,” Rodio said of mobile gambling.
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