ATLANTIC CITY — Since its introduction in 2013, internet gaming has generated more than $500 million in revenue, helping prop up a struggling casino gaming market.
When internet gaming was approved, it was touted as a new source of revenue that would help the casinos recover from a decline in slot and table-games winnings from their brick-and-mortar operations. New Jersey joined Nevada and Delaware as the only states offering online gaming.
“A so-called down month for New Jersey is still one in which it posts near-record revenue and shatters notions that the 4-year-old industry should be settling into middle age,” said Robert DellaFave, senior analyst for internet gambling advocacy group PlayNJ.com. “New Jersey online gambling has effectively become Atlantic City’s eighth casino; with the primary difference being online sites incentivize players to sample all of the state’s land-based gaming options.”
But some experts think online gaming, while helping the gaming industry in the short term, could hinder the resort as it tries to move from a gaming to a nongaming-based economy. In April, internet gaming- revenue totaled nearly $21 million, more than three brick-and-mortar properties. Despite the increases in revenue from internet gaming, the city has seen a steady reduction in the number of people coming to the city by car, bus and airplane.
“Is it unqualified good news for Atlantic City?” asked Anthony Marino, a local market analyst and retired executive with the South Jersey Transportation Authority. “An anomaly is developing in as much as the casino industry resizing, and introduction of online gaming has boosted revenues at the seven operating casinos at the same time that visit-trips to the resort continue to decrease, as they have now for 11 consecutive years.”
In 2013, more than 20.2 million cars passed through the Pleasantville Toll Plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway, a traditional indicator of the people heading into the resort. Last year, only 18.8 million cars passed through it. The exception has been charter flights to Atlantic City International Airport, which have been on the rise this year, with March’s passenger tally nearly double last March, according to transportation statistics kept by the South Jersey Transportation Authority.
DellaFave said he views internet gaming as an addition to the casino market, not a threat to brick-and-mortar business.
“New Jersey online gambling revenue largely comes from players that have never set foot inside an Atlantic City casino,” he said.
Through April, casino gaming has generated more than $843.5 million in revenue, 10 percent of that is from online gaming. In March, the online gaming revenues totaled more than $21.7 million, a record.
“Additional revenue is going to be a good thing for the city,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. “Yes we may lose some brick and mortar business, but there is an additional business that is coming to us.”