Fantasy sports betting is still not a reality at the Atlantic City casinos.
Technically, it is not considered gambling, because it is regarded as a game of skill, not a game of chance.
But when the regulations were approved by New Jersey casino regulators in March, fantasy sports betting was touted as a way to attract new gamblers to the struggling Atlantic City market.
Although it sounded like a winner for Atlantic City at that time, it just hasn’t happened. So far, no casinos are offering fantasy sports betting tournaments, representatives of all 12 casinos confirmed.
One executive explained that with fantasy sports betting being so prevalent on major media outlets such as ESPN, it simply would make no sense for the casinos to try to compete with it.
“One of the reasons some of the casinos may not be doing it is, it’s already available to the consumer on a very broad media platform. We would be competing on a national level, which we just can’t do with the ESPNs of the world,” said Joe Lupo, senior vice president of operations at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
Lupo made it clear that Borgata, Atlantic City’s top-grossing casino, has no plans to introduce fantasy sports betting to its customers.
Instead, Borgata runs a sports-themed promotion that allows customers to win $1 million in prizes if they pick the most winners in the National Football League games.
“We have a very successful promotion with football. That’s where we maintain our focus,” Lupo said.
Other Atlantic City casinos have similar “pick ’em” contests during football season. They are not considered gambling, because customers enter for free. There’s no betting involved.
Fantasy sports betting, on the other hand, would involve an exchange of money. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has approved regulations that would allow casinos to accept entry fees from gamblers for fantasy sports tournaments. Winnings would be paid out from casino cash cages.
However, fantasy sports betting is regarded as a game of skill instead of real gambling. In its regulations, the Division of Gaming Enforcement wrote that “the conduct of a fantasy sports tournament shall not be considered ‘gaming’ or ‘gambling.’”
In fantasy sports betting, participants create fantasy teams made up of athletes from real teams and compete against other fantasy teams based on the statistics the athletes generate during real games. Fantasy players with the best statistical totals are the winners.
Fantasy sports betting has grown from being a pastime involving college students and neighborhood groups to a nationwide Internet craze. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates there are more than 35 million fantasy players in the U.S. and Canada. Billions of dollars are generated annually from entry fees, subscriptions and websites related to fantasy sports.
Israel Posner, a casino analyst at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, speculated that fantasy sports betting hasn’t caught on in Atlantic City, because the casinos are devoting most of their attention toward Internet gambling and full-fledged, Las Vegas-style sports betting.
“A business model is based upon unmet needs. Here, you have a situation where I’m not sure the business model is worth the investment,” Posner, executive director of Stockton’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism, said of fantasy sports betting.
Internet gambling on Atlantic City slot machines and table games is scheduled to begin in New Jersey on Nov. 26. It will give gamblers the ability to use their home computers or hand-held devices to make online wagers from anywhere within the state.
Atlantic City’s casinos have also joined with New Jersey officials to push for Las Vegas-style sports betting. However, the courts have upheld a 1992 federal law that bans sports betting in all but Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. Those states had a form of sports betting on the books before the federal ban began. New Jersey has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban.
Fantasy sports betting in Atlantic City was supposed to capitalize on sports betting’s popularity. Yet, five months after the regulations were approved, the casinos still haven’t gotten into the fantasy game.
“I wonder if the energy just isn’t here now,” Posner said. “I also wonder, in the bigger picture, if Internet gaming is keeping so many casinos busy that this piece pales in comparison.”
Posner, though, speculated that there could be a far simpler answer to explain why the casinos haven’t introduced fantasy sports betting yet. He noted that they may be waiting for huge sports-betting events in 2014 — such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA’s “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament — before ramping up fantasy sports betting.
“My general knowledge of the whole sports-betting rage is, it’s really about the Super Bowl and March Madness,” he said. “The fact is, it is still summer, which is not exactly prime time for sports betting.”
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