ATLANTIC CITY - Casinos now have the option of canceling some progressive slot jackpots and pocketing the money themselves - a potential windfall in the millions.
A regulatory change that took effect Monday allows casinos to cancel the jackpots provided they give the public 30 days advance notice. At the end of 30 days, they could simply keep the jackpot if no gamblers win the money before the deadline lapses.
Under the old regulations, casinos were required to transfer the jackpot to a different progressive slot machine system, essentially keeping the money in play until a gambler won it. The new rule was approved by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, or DGE.
"This is similar to what happens with non-progressive machines, where the casino can remove the machine from the floor and retain the jackpot in the casino's discretion," DGE Director Josh Lichtblau said in a statement.
The regulatory change applies to in-house or stand-alone progressive slot machines in a single casino. However, multi-casino progressive jackpots would still have to be transferred to another slot system if the game is canceled, the DGE said.
"In essence, this rule change gives casinos a tool to get rid of unpopular games and systems quickly, thus allowing the casinos that avail themselves of this opportunity the ability to place newer, and possibly more popular, games in place of the terminated games," Lichtblau said.
The rule change also allows casinos to raise the odds of winning progressive jackpots from the current 50 million-to-1 to 100 million-to-1.
Lichtblau said casinos would have the option of offering bigger jackpots in games that have higher odds. He also said the higher odds will allow Atlantic City to introduce new slot games that are available in Nevada but previously were not permitted in New Jersey under the old regulations.
"Allowing a top jackpot at higher odds should produce more jackpots of larger dollar amounts, which, in turn, should provide casinos that wish to offer such games an additional tool for generating more play and greater excitement in the Atlantic City market," Lichtblau said.
The jackpot rule change is one of the first new regulations approved by the DGE since it replaced the New Jersey Casino Control Commission as the state's chief regulatory agency for the gaming industry. Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation on Feb. 1 that eased the regulations and made them more affordable for casinos.