New Jersey gaming regulators have given Atlantic City casinos until June 29 to declare their online gambling technology partnerships if they wish to launch their online business when the state fires the official starting gun on November 16. The Division of Gaming Enforcement has sent AC’s dozen casino licensees a letter warning them of the deadline, which must be followed in July by a more detailed disclosure of their online tie-ups.
eGamingReview reported that the unexpected deadline has sent European online gambling operators into something of a tizzy, trying to hook up with a stateside dance partner before the music stops. Most Euro-facing operators are keenly interested in establishing a US beachhead via New Jersey, which offers a market three times the size of Nevada’s and where the legislation contains no ‘bad actor’ clause. William Hill arguably has the highest profile in the Garden State, having recently inked a prospective sports betting deal with Monmouth Park racetrack.
So far, no European operator has been as bold as PokerStars, whose audacious attempt to buy the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel unfortunately flamed out after the casino’s owners spotted a legal loophole that would allow them to have Stars’ cake and eat it too. The Atlantic Club has yet to announce a new buyer or technology partner, although Station Casinos’ name has come up, as the Atlantic Club’s hedge fund owners Colony Capital LLC also own a piece of Station. Station’s online subsidiary Fertitta Interactive launched Nevada’s first real-money online poker site in May.
Caesars Entertainment owns four of AC’s casinos, and while Caesars is desperate for cash, it’s also pinned much of its salvation to owning most of New Jersey’s online market, so it’s unlikely to make it any easier for experienced European online operators to offer competition. The market-leading Borgata is owned by Boyd Gaming and MGM Resorts, who have already entered into a three-way joint venture with Bwin.party digital entertainment.
A few of the other six AC casinos have tentative links to online operations. Resorts Atlantic City is managed by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which has entered into online partnerships with Bally Technology and Amaya Gaming for its Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. Bally has also signed a free-play deal with the Las Vegas counterpart of Tilman J. Fertitta’s Golden Nugget property.
That just leaves the Tropicana, the Trump Plaza, the Trump Taj Mahal and Revel. Revel is desperate for any kind of cash injection, but questions remain as to how long its owners will be willing to keep things going at the just-emerged-from-bankruptcy property. In February, California’s Meruelo Group agreed to purchase the Trump Plaza for $20m, but billionaire Carl Icahn, who holds the mortgages on both the Plaza and the Taj Mahal, has deemed the price too low and refused to approve the sale. Icahn also controls the Tropicana. The Plaza ranked dead last in revenue generation in AC’s revenue report for May, while the Taj Mahal and Tropicana ranked fifth and sixth highest respectively, although both properties slipped around 10% year-on-year.