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Experts: Online gaming will bring more players to Atlantic City

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Israel Posner walks the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Online gaming, he says, will bring in the convenience gamblers who will otherwise go to Pennsylvania to play.
Israel Posner walks the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Online gaming, he says, will bring in the convenience gamblers who will otherwise go to Pennsylvania to play. - ()

Experts say the online gaming law Gov. Chris Christie signed Tuesday will not compete directly with the Atlantic City casinos, but will complement what the shore town can offer.

Israel Posner, director of the Levenson Institute of Gaming Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton College, divided gamblers into two types: convenience gamblers and destination gamblers. Posner said Atlantic City has been behind in attracting convenience gamblers from casinos in New York and Pennsylvania.

"Those people aren't coming (to Atlantic City) now. The people who want to conveniently gamble, they drive to Pennsylvania," Posner said. "What the Internet does is it connects them to a New Jersey casino operator, because they're more likely to open up an account. Once they open up the account and get familiar to the game, they will drive."

The legislation permits Atlantic City casino operators to take bets from in-state players over the Internet. It got Christie's signature Tuesday afternoon following a conditional veto of the legislation earlier this month.

Posner said the opportunity lies in marketing tournaments, entertainment and destination gambling to convenience gamblers. That, he said, opens a whole new database of potential customers for Atlantic City.

"If someone buys me a golf club, I might first use it on the driving range," Posner said. "But after a little while at the driving range, I'm going to want to play golf at a real golf course. I might get introduced to a game via iPad, but I want to go to the big time and see how it is in the real world."

William Pascrell III, a lobbyist with Princeton Public Affairs Group, said the bill gives "bricks and mortar casinos a chance to re-examine their business model." Pascrell represents Poker Stars, an online poker company that is working to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino, and has more than 50 million online players around the world.

Pascrell said the law incentivizes the Atlantic City casinos to "marry" their brand to an online provider to attract gamblers to the city and hold their attention online when they get home. He added that people still visit casinos in Europe and Asia despite the fact that online gaming is legal there.

"There's no proof of a negative impact, in fact, there's only proof of a positive impact," Pascrell said. "This is going to distinguish us from neighboring states who have been eating our lunch."

While Pascrell said there are no silver bullets for pushing New Jersey back to the forefront of the gaming world, both he and Posner agree the bill puts the state back in a leadership position as other states scramble to form similar regulations.

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