Borgata has been awarded the first Internet gambling permit in New Jersey, giving it an early start as casinos jockey for position in the potentially lucrative online betting market.

Tom Ballance, president and chief operating officer of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, said the permit underscores Borgata’s intention to become one of the first Atlantic City casinos to offer Internet gambling through its partnership with Bwin.party.

“We believe online gaming is an exciting growth opportunity for New Jersey’s gaming industry, one that will generate significant benefits for the state as New Jersey assumes a leadership role in this emerging form of gaming entertainment,” Ballance said in a statement Wednesday.

Bwin.party stressed it will be ready to start online wagering as soon as New Jersey gives the final go-ahead. Bwin.party is best known for its partypoker.com brand in Europe and the World Poker Tour franchise.

“This is a big step towards the opening of the regulated market for online gaming in New Jersey next month,” Bwin.party spokesman John Shepherd said. “We’re working very closely with our blue-chip partner to launch Borgata-branded poker and casino sites and our partypoker site, which will also offer casino games, on Day 1 of the opening of the New Jersey market.”

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has set Nov. 26 as the launch for full-fledged Internet gambling, although it will be preceded by a five-day trial period to test the digital system for any potential problems.

Lisa Spengler, a division spokeswoman, said Borgata is the only casino so far to submit a complete application for a New Jersey Internet gambling permit. Each casino must obtain a permit to begin online wagering.

Although Borgata becomes the first casino awarded a permit, Spengler said it doesn’t mean that Borgata will jump ahead of other Atlantic City casinos for Internet gambling.

“It gives no tactical advantage because they can’t do anything until we go live anyway,” she said of Borgata.

Internet wagering on slots and table games represents the biggest expansion of gambling in Atlantic City since the casino era began in 1978. New Jersey joins Nevada and Delaware as the only states so far to legalize online gambling.

Gamblers will be able to use their home computers, smartphones and other electronic devices to play online, as long as they are within New Jersey’s borders. Players will set up online accounts with the casinos or their Web partners to gamble.

New Jersey’s foray into Internet gambling has attracted some of the biggest names of online wagering overseas. Their partnerships with the Atlantic City casinos will allow them to capitalize on the emerging Internet gambling market in the United States.

Online gambling will become an $8.5 billion business in the United States within five years, according to estimates by Linwood-based casino consulting company Spectrum Gaming Group. Spectrum estimated Atlantic City casinos will initially reap $400 million in annual revenue from New Jersey’s online gambling operations.

The new source of revenue is expected to help the casinos recover from a seven-year decline in slot and table games winnings from their brick-and-mortar operations. Casinos are hoping online gambling will complement their land-based operations instead of cannibalizing the Atlantic City visitor market.

Ten of the 12 casinos have lined up Web partners. Only Revel Casino-Hotel and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel have not yet disclosed their plans for online wagering.

Caesars Entertainment, owner of the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat casinos, is teaming up with 888 Holdings for Web betting.

Tropicana Casino and Resort’s Internet partner is Gamesys Limited, which operates the jackpotjoy.com website in Europe.

Resorts Casino Hotel is pairing up with PokerStars, the world’s largest poker website. PokerStars aligned itself with Resorts after its plan to buy the Atlantic Club collapsed.

Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort is using Ultimate Gaming as its Web partner. Ultimate Gaming was the first company to launch online poker when it began this year in Nevada. It has said it will be ready for New Jersey’s Nov. 26 startup.

The Taj Mahal’s sister property, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, is teaming up with Web company Betfair, Wall Street analysts have reported.

Golden Nugget Atlantic City will offer Internet gambling under its own brand, although it is using Bally Technologies as its technology provider. Golden Nugget’s parent company, Landry’s Inc., announced in August that it will consider selling the casino or its Internet gambling rights.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.