Gambling in New Jersey has been restricted to Atlantic City for 35 years, but that may change if the state’s casinos don’t show better results in 2014.
Next year will be the fourth of a grace period set at five years by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in which the Atlantic City casinos must reverse declining revenues or casino gambling may be expanded to other regions of New Jersey. The Meadowlands sports complex in the northern part of the state has been eyed by developers as a prime location for a casino.
Seven straight years of revenue spiraling downward prompted state officials to approve online gambling in February. The late November launch has gone well, with roughly 110,000 accounts created among the more than dozen gaming sites in operation.
The hope is that attendance at the casinos will not be hurt by the availability of Internet gambling. With 2014 as the first full year of online sites being up and running, next year is a crucial one in determining how gambling may look throughout the state for years to come.
The first order of business in 2014 will be the closing of the Atlantic Club on Jan. 13. Atlantic City casinos will be reduced to 11, which will likely be beneficial to the balance sheets of the existing casinos. However, not all 11 remaining casinos may survive, as industry observers believe the Atlantic Club’s demise may be followed by doors shutting at one or two additional casinos.
More than 1,500 casino workers will lose their jobs at the Atlantic Club. Thousands more may join them in the unemployment line if the Revel and/or other casinos cannot reverse the fortunes seen in recent years. While that will put a hurt on the state’s economy, there may be no alternative.
Casinos appearing in neighboring states have seemingly over-saturated the market along the East Coast, as players are no longer forced to make the trek to Atlantic City to gamble as they once did. Next on the agenda is the possibility of conducting a study to determine if New Jersey would be better served by operating casinos in other areas of the state, particularly the Meadowlands.
All eyes will be on the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in two weeks when the first online gambling revenue report is set to be released. Christie and other legislators are banking on Internet gambling to revive the Atlantic City casinos. Studies have shown that revenue may reach hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
A successful online gambling regime would do wonders for the state and may allow New Jersey to continue with its tradition of allowing gambling to be legal only in Atlantic City casinos and on the Internet through those same casinos. Should the numbers in 2014 not reach the lofty projections, then other alternatives will be considered by state officials.