Analyst Says Internet Gambling Could Save Atlantic City

A New Jersey bill that would legalize internet gambling in the state could save Atlantic City according to one analyst. Atlantic City casinos have been struggling for years because of a stagnant economy and competition from casinos in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. The city was also hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. A securities analyst has urged Governor Christie to sign the piece of legislation. Dennis Farrell Jr., a senior analyst for Wells Fargo, wrote in a report on the bill “In our opinion, this is one of the last chances the governor has to provide a lifeline to Atlantic City casinos.” Farrell and a colleague, Alex Schneider, said that internet gambling could increase casino revenue by $650 million to $850 million in its first year.

The piece of legislation requires all wagers be placed in New Jersey and received bipartisan support in the legislature. Last year Governor Christie vetoed a similar bill saying at the time that any effort to expand casino gambling outside of Atlantic City must be supported by referendum.” Christie also expressed constitutional concerns. State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor, said that the Wells Fargo report should ease any worries. In a statement Lesniak said “The experts are weighing in, and the overwhelming majority of opinions is that Internet wagering represents our best shot at resuscitating Atlantic City’s faltering economy.”

Many had hoped that the upscale Revel resort would give Atlantic City a boost but Revel had a slow start last spring. The casino’s finances have deteriorated and the owners have warned federal regulators about the possibility of a bankruptcy or foreclosure. Farrell says that if internet gambling is approved in New Jersey casino revenues could increase by as much as 50% during the next five years. That would translate to an additional $1.5 billion in casino revenue and $150 million in new tax revenue each year.  Farrell said that online gambling will not cost casino jobs. Farrell wrote “Opponents of the bill believe online gaming will lead to job losses at brick-and-mortar casinos. We beg to differ, as we believe online gaming sites operated by state casino operators will lead to job creation and drive visitation to Atlantic City.”

Governor Christie has until February 4th to sign the bill and so far has not indicated what he will do. Currently the bill is sitting on Christie’s desk and according to some may be the last hope of saving Atlantic City’s casinos. On a New Jersey radio show Christie stated “I’ve got to make a decision very soon. I haven’t made a final decision yet.” The bill would make several casino games legal including internet bingo.