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Esports and casino gaming set to 'collide,' experts say

ATLANTIC CITY — The future of casino gaming is not coming — it is already here.

Esports, or competitive video gaming, is a wide-open market for forward-thinking casino operators, content providers and gamblers, according to a panel of experts who spoke Wednesday at the 23rd annual East Coast Gaming Congress and NextGen Forum at Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center.

“We’re at a crossroads of esports and the gambling world,” said Ari Fox, producer of Gamacon & Casino Esports Conference. “But it’s already happening. It’s just a matter of when casino executives and the gambling world are going to step into the fray.”

Cash-betting on skill-based video games is already legal in 38 states, including New Jersey. But without a concerted effort on the part of American gaming operators to capitalize on the opportunity to attract the next generation of gambler, the casino industry is missing out on the nearly $13 billion bet annually on esports with offshore bookmakers, analysts said.

“These two industries (casino gaming and esports) have to collide because the casino industry is beginning to lose the generation that plays table games,” Fox said.

Competitive video game tournaments attract millions of viewers worldwide, mostly males between the ages of 15 and 35. In 2018, esports viewership clocked in at more than 167 million worldwide, according to research by NewZoo and Goldman Sachs. By 2022, that number is expected to eclipse 300 million.

Casino properties in Nevada have begun trying to lure this demographic by constructing massive esports arenas and partnering with well-known sponsors to offer cash prizes.

Russell Aleksey, founder and CEO of OkLetsPlay, said esports allows for a “much more engaged” experience that appeals to a new generation of gamer, which casino operators could take advantage of if done properly. At its core, esports is a competition between two or more people, and the ability for a player to bet on themselves or a spectator to wager on a preferred player is more of a draw to younger gamers than slots or tables, he said.

“The average Joe out there can feel like a champion, feel like a pro, play with real money and bet on themselves,” said Aleksky. “There’s a massive population of players out there who are of age and eligible to engage in such an activity.”

The problem, at the moment, is that most casino operators either do not understand esports or are not concerned with a younger demographic of gambler, said Alex Igelman, principal of Spectrum Esports Advisors and chairman of Millennial Esports Corp.

“It’s still a nascent industry, and we’re continuing to evolve,” Igelman said, “but it will be mainstream soon.”

A 2017 report from NewZoo on global gaming market trends found anywhere from 40% to 60% of video gamers over the age of 25 are interested in in-game betting.

“These people (gamers) are crazy about the internet and online engagement,” said Antoine Grimond, chief operating officer of Gamifly Esports. “(The opportunity) is here, it’s just not being turned into customers yet.”

Fox said if casino operators really want to get involved and generate revenue, they have to “offer something more entertaining than what’s online.”

“People should have the ability to have fun,” he said. “If I’m a millennial and I walk into a casino right now, there’s nothing for me to do.”

Josh Marcus, managing partner and co-founder of MKM Esports, said esports is “accessible” to everyone, which gives the offering a wide appeal. Marcus said the popularity of esports is only going to expand as more people are exposed to it.

“We’re definitely going to see more growth,” he said, “and it will only continue.”

Idalee Corchado, 50 talks about Atlantic City’s public housing, where only 50% of the 16,000 public housing units have air conditioning at School House Apartments Tuesday June 11, 2019. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City

Summers are getting warmer, and some AC public housing residents are feeling the heat

ATLANTIC CITY — Some evenings inside Ida Lee Corchado’s School House apartment were so hot in recent years, breathing became difficult.

On the worst nights, she said, temperatures felt like they reached 80 degrees. For weeks, she called the building’s owner requesting an air conditioner, and eventually one was installed. But others are still enduring the heat.

“It gets very hot. You can smell the mist in the middle of the hallways. ... Especially in the morning, the sun comes in from this side,” said Corchado, 50, while pointing at the building, “so we’d switch ourselves to the living room.”

As the Earth gradually warms, summers are getting hotter in Atlantic City — a trend that may be good for beach days, but bad for residents living in public housing units without central air.

From 1970 to 2018, the average minimum daily temperature in Atlantic City from June to August has risen 3.3 degrees, according to Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that analyzes global warming. That’s 0.6 degrees higher than the national average.


And even more noticeable, climate scientists say, are warmer nights, which are driving the increase in average temperatures. In Atlantic City, there were 17 more nights above 65 degrees in 2017 than in 1970.

The reason behind the trend: A hotter planet leads to more water evaporation, which causes higher humidity, said Sean Sublette, meteorologist with Climate Central. This cycle could be amplified in a town like Atlantic City that is surrounded by water.

“When it is more humid, the atmosphere does not cool as much at night,” Sublette said.

The nationwide trend is a cause for concern, even locally, said Atlantic City Housing Authority Executive Director Thomas Hannon.

Only about half of the island’s 1,600 public housing units have air conditioning, Hannon said. There is no federal or state requirement that public housing provide central air, and much of Atlantic City’s housing stock is outdated.

During heat waves, when it’s above 90 degrees for three days or more, Hannon said the housing authority opens up air-conditioned community rooms in some of its buildings until about 10 p.m. to help keep residents cool.

As the city looks to update its public housing, Hannon said adding cooling systems will be a priority. The future Stanley Holmes Village and Buzby Village redevelopment projects will include adding central air, he said.

“It’s certainly a concern,” Hannon said. “We’ve all noticed it getting warmer earlier in the year.”

Some residents aren’t able to cool off at night, when they’d normally get a reprieve from the heat, because of the hotter than normal nighttime temperatures, said state climatologist David Robinson.

“These residents can’t catch their breath. Particularly those who don’t have air conditioners,” Robinson said. “In the past, at least their rooms would be cooler at night. You could open a window and cool it off, and it’d take a while to warm it up during the day. That’s missing now.”

Another byproduct of all this heat: possible rising cooling costs. Across the U.S., the average energy expenditure in the Northeast was $174 per household in 2015.

That may not be the case in Atlantic County though, where the average residential customer has seen a 15% decline in total energy usage since 2010, said Frank Tedesco, spokesman for Atlantic City Electric.

As summers get warmer, he said, people can take steps to ensure they’re not paying more in energy costs from air conditioners running throughout the day and night.

Residents can use ceiling fans, run heat-producing appliances sparingly or install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust a home’s temperature at night.

Atlantic City Electric also runs an Energy Wise Rewards program, which lets customers install either a web-programmable thermostat or an outdoor switch installed at no cost. Atlantic City Electric will cycle the participants’ air conditioner compressors off and on for short intervals during periods of peak electric demand, such as heat waves.

“There are lots of steps customers can take to ready their homes,” Tedesco said.

Still, running air conditioners constantly can exacerbate warming temperatures, Robinson said.

The cooling units emit heat into the atmosphere, which pavements and concrete soak up.

“Even the buildings and rooftops hold heat from the previous day,” he said. “They’re slow to release it at night, and that keeps the cities warmer.”

Pleasantville loses school chiefs, approves staff cuts

PLEASANTVILLE — The district’s top two administrators are leaving.

Pleasantville’s Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved the resignation of Superintendent Clarence Alston on June 28 and the retirement of Assistant Superintendent Garnell Bailey on Sept. 30. Board member Hassan Callaway was absent.

The resolutions were not on the published board agenda but were announced after the public comment portion of Tuesday’s monthly school board meeting.

Alston’s resignation was met with a gasp from the crowd, which then erupted in applause as Bailey’s retirement was read aloud.

New monitor invites fears of state takeover in Pleasantville schools

PLEASANTVILLE — Saying he was “embarrassed” and “enraged” to learn the school district was getting a second state monitor after 12 years of state oversight, Mayor Jesse Tweedle gathered city and school officials Thursday to discuss how they can work together against what they believe is a state takeover.

The resignations come one week after the state Department of Education sent a second state monitor, J. Michael Rush, to oversee the district. In a May 15 memo advising the superintendent of the new monitor, Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet pointed to the school board’s failure to approve a reduction in force that would balance its budget for the second year in a row.

School Business Administrator Elisha Thompkins did not immediately have available copies of Bailey’s and Alston’s letters of resignation.

Board President Carla Thomas declined to comment on the resignations and referred to board attorney James Carroll, who said the board is ready to show the state it can work together.

Bailey has been out of the district since January after being suspended by Alston, according to a lawsuit pending against him. She served as interim superintendent prior to her current role and turned down an offer in 2016 to run the district, citing a “lack of respect” by the board.

Alston, a former superintendent in the district who was rehired in July 2017 after coming out of retirement, has been out of the district on leave for more than a week. Alston’s employment was initially blocked by the current state monitor, Constance Bauer, but overturned by a court that ruled Bauer overstepped her bounds. Alston was hired and then sued the district and won $215,000 in back pay.

Thompkins said Alston will be back in the district over the next three weeks and that an interim must be appointed by July 1. He declined to say who the interim may be.

Meanwhile, the board was finally able to approve the reduction of several positions that will balance its budget for the 2019-20 school year. The board had approved a budget in early May but failed over three meetings to approve the necessary cuts.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Carroll said approving the reduction in force that night was critical to maintain local control.

“The state has made it very clear that if the board fails to vote on it tonight it is likely to be a state takeover,” Carroll said. “If it doesn’t get approved, a lot more people are going to lose their jobs.”

Carroll addressed a concern by South Main Street School Principal Felicia Hyman-Medly about the reduction and subsequent reassignments that it would result in lawsuits by tenured employees who are bumped from their positions by nontenured employees.

Hyman-Medly is one of the administrators being moved from her position due to the reduction. She has asked the school board to keep her at South Main Street instead of transferring her to the Middle School to serve as principal.

“There are ways to address it, there are grievance procedures, but it cannot be addressed tonight. We have no option on this,” Carroll said.

After an executive session, the board approved the reduction in force of two principals on special assignment, two deans of students, director of curriculum and instruction, coordinator of guidance, an elementary school vice principal, a preschool teacher, two preschool relief teachers and three long-term substitutes. They also approved several staff reassignments and the creation of an athletic director position, which Stephen Townsend, the district’s current principal on special assignment of athletics, will fill.

After the meeting, Thomas said she was relieved the board was able to approve the reduction in force.

“I’m glad that is over with and we can move forward with the district,” she said.

Also Tuesday, the school board approved a resolution to change all half days at the end of the school year into full days and add a half day June 19 for students.

Thompkins said the changes were necessary because the state was disputing whether the district’s 16 half-days throughout the year had enough minutes to count under state rules as a day of instruction.

Board member Jerome Page asked, “How did we get to this?”

“I’m not 100% sure,” Thompkins said, as he is not in charge of scheduling as the business administrator.

“They have to have four hours minimum of teacher-student contact time, and the state is stating that that didn’t occur,” he said.

High school graduation will remain June 18.

Carroll said discussions are ongoing with the state regarding the schedule.

”We have to get them to agree that that is the correct date,” he said.

The meeting will continue at 5 p.m. Thursday for more discussion on the calendar, Carroll said.

Matt Rourke  

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Philadelphia, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Cumberland County College ready for merger with Gloucester

VINELAND — Cumberland County College expects to have a new name by next month as the school is awaiting approval of a merger with Rowan College at Gloucester County.

“We’re in the last lap here, and hopefully it all goes well,” said Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joe Derella.

On June 28, the Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting and vote to officially close Cumberland County College and the campus will become part of the new Rowan College of South Jersey.

The day prior, the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, which issues accreditation for public and private institutions, is expected to approve the merger, said Robert Clark, head of institutional research at Cumberland County College.

Clark said the application for merger from Cumberland and Rowan College at Gloucester County was submitted Nov. 5 and went through a three-tiered process of review.

“We’ve been in touch with the commission all the way through,” Clark said. “Everything is looking good, so we don’t anticipate any problems.”

If approved, the new Rowan College of South Jersey will operate over two campuses at the Cumberland and Gloucester colleges. There will be one president, current Rowan College at Gloucester County President Frederick Keating, and one board of trustees.

The membership of the new board is determined by state statute and will have eight Gloucester County representatives and five Cumberland representatives. The current Cumberland County board has 10 members.

Clark said the freeholders from each county will vet and approve candidates to fill the open seats. Those seats will likely be filled at respective freeholder meetings next week.

Derella said the freeholder board has made education in the county a top initiative since 2013. He said it reduces unemployment, keeps families together, creates healthier individuals and reduces crime.

The partnership with Rowan opens up opportunities to Cumberland County residents for expanding education, he said.

“Rowan is now becoming recognized nationally as one of the up-and-coming research universities, which is a huge opportunity for them as well as anyone who could tie themselves to them,” Derella said. “Obviously, with the push in the state of New Jersey to try to consolidate and find ways to bring communities and entities together and share costs, but also share in tremendous benefits, we’re taking a huge step in that direction.”

Clark said that with the merger, there will be no layoffs and the 10 unions between the two existing colleges have signed a one-year extension of their labor contracts, which expire this year, as well as a memorandum of agreement to keep staff at the current level for the next two years.

He said there may be some attrition, “but that’s something that is ongoing anyway.”

Athletics programs at each school will still operate separately, said Keith Gorman, head baseball coach and director of athletics and student life at Cumberland County College. Cumberland defeated Rowan College at Gloucester County 11-7 on May 29 in Greeneville, Tennessee, in the NJCAA D-III championship game. It was the first national championship in school history.

Cumberland will compete under the name Rowan College of South Jersey Cumberland Dukes, while Rowan will compete under the name Rowan College of South Jersey Gloucester Roadrunners.

Cumberland County officials have said the merger will help keep the community college from closing as it faces financial hardships due to declining enrollment.

Over a five-year period from 2012, Rowan College at Gloucester County was the only community college in the state to show an increase in enrollment. Clark said it was flat this year.

“They have been the best at resisting the decline in enrollment that Cumberland County, statewide and nationwide have been experiencing,” he said.

He said they are projecting relatively flat enrollment over the next three years at the new Rowan College of South Jersey.

“But understand that flat is good,” Clark said.

He said the merger will also allow Cumberland County to be a part of the “3 plus 1” program available at Rowan College of Gloucester County.

“Students will be able to pay community college tuition for three years and university tuition for one year and complete their baccalaureate degree for less than $30,000,” Clark said.

He said the merger also will not affect any existing dual-enrollment or Early College High School agreements in which Cumberland County College participates.

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Joe Derella

Party: Democrat Running for re-election. Derella was first elected in 2012 and serves as the chairman of the board. Derella formerly served as a Millville commissioner and vice mayor of Millville for 15 years. He was also the Millville Board of Education president, a member of the Millville Planning and the Millville/Vineland UEZ Board and a member of the Cumberland County Improvement Authority Board.

elea-pressofac / Edward Lea / Staff photographer