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Borgata aims to be No. 1 as i-gaming launch nears

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The Borgata was the first casino to get its online gaming permit, but it’s already got company.
The Borgata was the first casino to get its online gaming permit, but it’s already got company. - ()

With average monthly revenues at around the $50 million mark, the Borgata is undoubtedly Atlantic City's market leader.
But that's not enough for President and CEO Tom Ballance.

“We have every intention on being the market leader in online gaming,” he said. “With that commitment to being a leader, comes the obligation to aggressively pursue online gaming.”

And the realization that you are being aggressively pursued by others.

The Borgata was given the first online permit, but the Golden Nugget and Trump properties followed with permits of their own last week. Others are expected to be on board when online play begins Nov. 21, when casinos can begin their trial periods ahead of the full launch Nov. 26

Ballance is not concerned. In fact, he said he cares less about making sure the Borgata is ready to on the launch date and more about getting it right.

“That's the way we've operated the Borgata in every single new business we've launched,” Ballance said. “We don't launch half-baked products here.”

Steve Scheinthal, executive vice president and general counsel for Golden Nugget parent company Landry's Inc., said his company is making a statement, too.

He said it was important for his casino to “demonstrate to the market that we're a serious player in this segment.”

“We're going to be ready to roll out day one,” Scheinthal said. “We're excited. We think that there's tremendous opportunity.”

That opportunity is expected to be sizable.

According to a report published last week by Academicon and PokerScout, the state's online poker market in its first year of implementation could be valued between $39 million and $65 million.

In 10 years, that market could be worth anywhere from $55 million to $92 million, the report said.

Whether or not the state opens up Internet gaming to customers outside of New Jersey will dictate the market's full potential, the report said.

William Pascrell III, a lobbyist for Isle of Man-based online gaming giant PokerStars, said a 2011 study on i-gaming in New Jersey estimated the creation of 1,900 to 2,000 high-wage, high-tech jobs within the first year alone.

New Jersey is primed to enjoy the “immense benefit of being a first mover,” Pascrell says, because online gaming companies such as PokerStars will look to set up shop in the state once things get going — and before other states can move on similar legislation of their own.

“You're not going to replicate an infrastructure in every state that passes i-gaming,” Pascrell, a member of Princeton Public Affairs Group, said.

That also could open the door in the future for other states to enter interstate agreements with New Jersey to offer online gambling.

Pascrell said the state's reputation for having a tough, highly regulated gaming authority is well respected, and will help it appeal to other states should interstate online gaming be allowed.

“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” Pascrell.

But for now, the customer base is limited to within New Jersey's borders.

At the Borgata, Ballance said he believes there are people out there who have yet to make the commitment of coming to Atlantic City, whether it is because of distance, convenience or something else.

That's the type of customer he hopes will appreciate being able to log in and play.

“Our hope and our expectation and our strategy is that there are some number of them that will try online gaming because it's so easy to do,” Ballance said.

Scheinthal says that while he imagines it's going to take some time for online gaming to “build some momentum,” at the Golden Nugget, cross promotion between the online and bricks-and-mortar realms will be a priority.

“We would love for people to come to the casino itself,” Scheinthal said.

E-mail to: andrewg@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @andrgeorge

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