Although regulations allow casinos to offer fantasy sports as early as Monday, most will wait for the start of the football preseason later this year to do so, officials and industry observers said.
“We are currently in the process of getting our plan together,” said Tom Pohlman, general manager of Golden Nugget Atlantic City, adding officials may have a better idea of what their offering will look like in the next couple of weeks.
Beginning Monday, the state Division of Gaming Enforcement will allow casinos to operate fantasy sports tournaments and pay winnings through the casino cage similar to how they treat slot machine and table game winnings.
Fantasy sports tournaments are contests in which participants create and manage a team — made up of individual players from various real teams — that competes against other fantasy teams based on statistics players generate in the course of real games.
Football is by far the most popular fantasy sport, according to the Missouri-based Fantasy Sports Trade Association. But football frenzy, particularly among fantasy fans, begins in August when the preseason starts and fans begin putting together fantasy drafts.
“At the beginning of the season every player is healthy, every player has potential,” said Peter Schoenke, chairman of the trade association. “Fantasy sports is all about the preseason.”
Casinos likely will wait to market to that hype, he said.
“They would make a splashy debut in August,” Schoenke said. “That’s when the fantasy sports consumer is at their peak.”
The gaming enforcement division said no casino has filed internal controls as of Friday that would show any intention to begin offering fantasy sports any time soon, although industry officials have been in talks with organizations that specialize in the activity, said Paul Charchian, president of the fantasy sports trade association.
“We know that there are Atlantic City casinos that are following up on the opportunity,” he said. “Because it’s still early, a lot of them are in the decision-making process.”
Several casino officials, such as those from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Revel and Caesars Interactive Entertainment Corp., said they were still evaluating fantasy sports with no immediate plans.
“We don’t have any previous experience in fantasy sports, so we are still learning about this opportunity and have yet to make any definitive decisions,” Caesars Interactive spokesman Seth Palansky said in a statement.
Under New Jersey’s regulations, casinos will be able to run the sports tournaments themselves or partner with another company to offer the service as long as the partner is licensed as a casino industry vendor.
The trade association estimates there are 35 million players in the United States and Canada with the overall mean age of 41. Adults who graduate from college are twice as likely to play fantasy sports than those who did not, according to the association.
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