ATLANTIC CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday to open the door for legalized sports betting throughout the country has politicians and gaming operators seeing dollar signs, but some industry experts are urging caution against the idea that it is a total game-changer.

The American Gaming Association estimates Americans spend nearly $150 billion per year on illegal sports betting. In Nevada, the only state where single-game sports wagering was legal before Monday, $4.9 billion was gambled on sports in 2017, of which casinos netted close to $250 million — 2.2 percent of the total casino win — and the state’s cut was just shy of $17 million.

In other words, there’s big money on the table.

But even when New Jersey passes a law to regulate and tax sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks — which it could do early next month — the new additional gaming option may not generate a financial windfall for Atlantic City.

“Sports betting will not contribute substantially to either gross gaming revenue or state tax revenue,” Fitch Ratings said within hours of the high court’s ruling.

Anthony Marino, a local gaming analyst, said sports betting will certainly help the casino industry in Atlantic City but added he believed “many locals are too hyped on its potential to be another one of those ‘game-changers.’” Marino noted that neighboring states would likely enter the sports-betting market and that sports bettors are selective in what they wager on, focusing on major events. He also said online and mobile wagering, while the revenue still goes to casinos and racetracks, will continue to lure visitors from the resort.

But the biggest concern, Marino said, is the unintended consequences of legalized sports betting in New Jersey in the form of a previously vanquished foe.

“The two major New Jersey racetracks, Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands, will jump into the market,” he said. “Once they add sports betting parlors to horse racing, they will begin lobbying to allow a third amenity for their patrons — slot machines. In short, this will breathe new life into the central and North Jersey support for racing/casino alternatives to Atlantic City.”

The good news is Atlantic City is ahead of the curve because of existing gaming institutions and a blueprint from Las Vegas, said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group. Pollock said Atlantic City needs to leverage its existing assets, such as the beach, marina and Boardwalk, to truly capitalize on legalized sports betting.

“It’s a game changer if it’s wielded effectively,” Pollock said. “Atlantic City (casino) operators have a tool that they did not have before. How they wield it is going to determine how much that game changes.”

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Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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