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Online Casinos in New Jersey

New Jersey

Other than Nevada (being the home of Las Vegas), perhaps no state in the USA is more associated with casinos than New Jersey. Home to Atlantic City, the largest hub for gaming on the East Coast, the state has emerged as a leader in both online and live gambling. And while the brick-and-mortar industry has been struggling in recent years, the introduction of regulated Internet gambling has helped breathe new life into the sector.

The Move Online

In 2013, regulated New Jersey online gambling was setup, with seven Atlantic City operators signing on to host websites that would offer games and poker to both residents and visitors to the Garden State. At the time, that made the state the third to offer Internet gaming within its borders, as Nevada and Delaware had both already made similar moves earlier in the year.

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Since that launch, there have been a number of developments in the marketplace, with both positive and negative indications depending on exactly what you want to look at. At the moment, there are a number of real money online casinos operating in the state. We’ve listed them roughly in order of the revenues they tend to bring in on a monthly basis:

  • Borgata / Party Poker
  • Caesars / 888 New Jersey
  • Tropicana
  • Virgin
  • Golden Nugget/ Betfair
  • Resorts AC /Mohegan Sun
  • Pala Casino
  • Play Sugarhouse

The Borgata/partypoker partnership is the clear leader in the state’s regulated gaming market, with the next three casinos (and their partners) grouped very close together, not far behind the leader. Resorts AC has the weakest operation, but got boost in March 2016 Pokerstars launched in the state. This was after the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement approved PokerStars (through their parent company, Amaya) for a license to operate in NJ. PokerStars operates in partnership with Resorts.

Many hope that the introduction of PokerStars will give a boost to the regulated online poker market in the state, which has been the weaker side of the Internet operations so far. Early on, the poker rooms appeared to be promising: they made up about 25% of the revenues brought in online, even as the overall operations got off to a sluggish start. But while the overall online gambling pie has grown in the state, poker has seen a steady decline. At the moment, only Borgata and Caesars offer poker to their online players, and many hope that either the addition of a PokerStars room or future compacts to share player pools with other states or jurisdictions could help turn the situation around.

Meanwhile, the regulated sites also have another competitor that continues to take a big share of the New Jersey online casino market: offshore operators who do not hold licenses in the state. While many operators have left the state in order to respect the regulatory framework that has been put into place, others continue to offer their games to residents. And with no laws against playing at gambling sites in the state, players are free to choose any option they want – whether it be a regulated site hosted nearby, or an online casino licensed in another country.

The Decline of Live Gaming Venues

Atlantic City was once a thriving resort town, but by the 1970s, the city was struggling. The introduction of legalized gambling was seen as one potential way to help revitalize the area, and after a first referendum to allow it failed, a second attempt resulted in approval from voters in 1976.

By 1978, the first casino had been opened in Atlantic City; at the time, it was the first legal gaming resort in the eastern half of the United States. More and more would open over the decades to come, culminating in the Borgata being built in 2003, a huge success that spawned more plans for future results.

But the recession of 2008 put an end to most future expansion plans. Only one of the several planned resorts around this time was ever built: the Revel, which left a dozen gambling halls operating in the city.

The recession was one of many issues facing the local casino market, however. Increasing competition was eating away at Atlantic City’s revenue base: first there were two resorts opened in Connecticut, then Pennsylvania became a gambling powerhouse, while New York, Delaware, and Maryland also opened their own facilities.

These factors combined to lead to the closure of four resorts in 2014. The Atlantic Club closed just after the year began, while the summer saw the Showboat, Trump Plaza, and Revel all shut down within three weeks of each other. The Revel was perhaps the most shocking development of all: in the just over two years that it was open, the owners twice filed for bankruptcy, making it a disastrous failure for the city’s gaming industry.

Currently, that leaves eight casinos still operating in the city. The consolidated market appears to be doing a bit better, as owners are posting bigger profits despite the fact that the overall player base has continued to decline. While Internet gaming makes up a small percentage of their revenues, many of the operators have found that it has made the difference between small losses and instead making a profit in their overall operations.

Future Developments

New Jersey’s gaming industry is still in flux, and there are at least three fronts on which significant changes could come in the near future.

First, there is the continuing struggle of some Atlantic City casinos to stay open, find new owners, or settle labor disputes. The most public of these fights has taken place at the Trump Taj Mahal, where Tropicana owner Carl Icahn is looking to purchase the property formerly owned by Donald Trump (and still controlled by Trump Entertainment). It seemed like a surefire way to save the property, which nearly closed in 2014, but battles over the bankruptcy proceedings, particularly over Icahn’s plans to break existing union contracts, have left the takeover in limbo for some time.

Next, some want to start thinking about bringing gambling to other regions of the state. There have been efforts to get a referendum to voters that would allow for one or more resorts to be built in North Jersey, perhaps in the Meadowlands or at another site. That ballot question never materialized in 2015, but is still a possibility going forward. Should this very become a real campaign, it promises to be a fierce battle: while some contend a North Jersey casino could be used to help existing operations in the state, others say that it only hasten Atlantic City’s downfall.

Perhaps the most public gaming battle in the state has been a fight over whether the state can allow sports betting within its borders. Under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), only four states (that had existing sports betting at the time) are allowed to offer any form of bets on sporting events: Nevada, which has full sportsbooks, as well as Delaware, Oregon, and Montana, each of which had more limited lottery-based games.

Despite PASPA, New Jersey has twice passed new laws that would allow for sports betting in the state. After federal courts struck down the first effort, they seized on language from that ruling to try a more creative path: rather than regulating and overseeing the industry, they simply planned to amend their laws to make it legal for the state’s racetracks and casinos to take such bets. The federal government, the NCAA, and the major professional sports leagues have fought against this tactic, and while the fight continues, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals once again ruled against New Jersey in September 2015.

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