Latest News

Roulette wheel of gambling expansion ideas get a fresh spin in Pa. capitol

March 8, 2017

By Charles Thompson

Gov. Tom Wolf upped the ante for gambling expansion in Pennsylvania this year with a 2017-18 budget proposal that banks on $150 million in proceeds from new to-be-determined gambling revenues.

Combined with $100 million baked into the current year’s spending plan, that’s $250 million that Pennsylvania’s cash-strapped government is hoping to make a winning bet on before the end of June.

The problem, as always, is getting everybody who’s already making a buck or thinking they can make a buck on legal gambling in the Keystone State to agree on how to carve up that pie.

Internet-based gambling had its audition Tuesday, in a marathon joint hearing before the House and Senate committees that steer gambling issues.

Here’s a few guiding points that came out of the discussion:

The New Jersey experience with internet games is getting better.

After a slow start, online games are starting to show some growth in neighboring New Jersey.

The games showed growth of 32 percent in 2016, all of which is generating momentum for the idea that it is the next logical place for Pennsylvania’s casino companies to grow their player base.

Not only that, after Atlantic City’s bruising retrenchment as all of the state’s neighbors added casino gambling, the online growth appears to be coming even as the in-casino market is showing early signs of stabilizing.

In January, for example, Atlantic City’s seven casinos showed growth of 5.9 percent from January 2016 in casino wins, while the internet gaming win was up 28.6 percent for the month.

Just last week, the Hard Rock International entertainment company announced that it would open a casino next summer on the site of the empty Trump Taj Mahal, which closed last year.

Based on New Jersey’s player rates and an assumed 14.5 percent tax rate, economic consultants told lawmakers Tuesday a commercial internet gambling market in Pennsylvania could generate $110 million in one-time licensing fees and, once up and running, about $60 million a year in taxes.

For most of Pennsylvania’s operators, this is the next obvious business-building opportunity.

Most of Pennsylvania’s casino operators seem to firmly believe that — based on New Jersey’s experience — offering poker and other games via smartphones, tablets and laptops will add more players than it subtracts from their physical casinos.

In fact, because online players typically skew younger than the typical casino crowd, it is a market they desparately want to tap.

“We don’t want to go the way of the Blockbusters and the newspapers and the like,” said David Satz, senior vice president of Caesars Entertainment Inc. / Harrah’s Philadelphia, operators of the racetrack casino in Chester.

Satz noted that 80 percent of Caesars’ on-line customers in New Jersey “are customers we did not know,” and nearly half of the rest were old customers that had not set foot in the casino for over a year.

“It’s important that last year 10 of 12 licensees all said this was part of the right policy. We know you guys have a big challenge in terms of budgetary issues. This is something that can help,” Satz concluded.

Casinos are not unanimous about this.

Note we said most. Not all.

On Tuesday, the chief executive officer of Parx Casino, a racetrack casino in Bucks County and Pennsylvania’s single best performer, gave a strong minority report.

Online gaming works in New Jersey, Tony Ricci argued, because all of its casinos are in Atlantic City. The online option is a good way for those casinos to go statewide, and win back some of the Garden Staters who had taken to playing in Pennsylvania, New York or Delaware.

In Pennsylvania, Ricci argued, all markets are already served by casinos spread out across the state. Due to that established geographic reach, he said, “there is much less upside opportunity and a much greater risk for cannibalization of the existing businesses.”

That could be particularly difficult for the Philadelphia operators, Ricci added, as other operators try to pick up bettors from the state’s most populous region.

“How can we reasonably assume that after Blockbuster video, Tower Records, Borders… (all) closing stores and eliminating jobs due to competition from online retailing, our industry is somehow different?” Ricci asked.

Ricci contended his company could join the online market and wind up paying less money to the state in taxes because of anticipated lower tax rates for the online games.

That in turn, could reduce the property tax breaks that slots taxes currently fund.

The other stolid casino industry opponent of online gambling is Sheldon Adelson, founder of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. that operates the casino in Bethlehem. But Adelson, now in talks to sell his Bethlehem property, may be losing traction in the Pennsylvania debate.

Operators of the state’s two smaller, so-called resort casinos voiced support for internet games Tuesday, but both hedged when asked directly if their companies would pay the proposed $10 million for a license.

Reasons for the rift.

There are some not-so-nuanced reasons for this rift in the industry.

Parx is hoping to help build the second stand-alone casino in the city of Philadelphia, so the online debate comes, for it, at a time when it is doubling down on the success of brick-and-mortar casinos.

“They think we’re saturated right after South Philly (the site of the second city casino) opens,” noted Wendy Hamilton, general manager of the first Philadelphia casino, SugarHouse.

“We think we’re saturated (in the Philadelphia market) now,” she added, noting total slots play at all Philadelphia area casinos grew by just 0.7 percent in 2016 amid signs that casinos there are already cannibalizing each other.

SugarHouse, incidentally, is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s award of the last Philly casino license to the group that includes Parx’s corporate parent.

Like Caesars’ Satz, Hamilton presented data from Sugarhouse’s online experience Tuesday to show that jumping into the online pool is the best way for Pennsylvania’s casinos to grow their market now.

Of all the online accounts opened in its New Jersey online venture with the Golden Nugget casino there, Hamilton noted, “only 8 percent were active at the casino in the year prior…”

They are also eight years younger than the average casino patron, on average, meaning the new games are a bridge to a demographic group that the existing casinos have had trouble reaching.

“It’s just a different customer,” Hamilton said, adding that while the revenue stream from online games are much smaller, “it is additional.”

No decisions yet.

Tuesday’s was the first of what promises to be a series of informational hearings on gambling issues, as the reconstituted gaming committees — both led by new chairmen this year — get re-educated on the issues.

Future hearings are expected to cover proposals to permit video gaming terminals in bars and taverns, and ways to re-enact a host municipality payment from casinos that was thrown out by the Supreme Court last year.

Internet-based games may have a little bit of a head start politically, if only because more lawmakers appear to be worried that VGT’s present a greater risk to the source of the state’s main property tax relief program.

If Wolf has any clear preferences about how all this shakes out, he hasn’t declared them publicly.

In a meeting with the PennLive editorial board earlier Tuesday, Wolf said his only principle is making sure the state isn’t locked into a “zero-sum game,” where revenue from new games is offset by losses in existing streams.

“If all we’re doing is shifting revenue from one form of gambling… to another form of gambling and the state comes out of this flurry of activity with no new revenue that’s not acceptable. Why do it?” the governor said.

“I’m open to conversations about what evidence people have as to how any particular alternative form of gambling is not going to violate my guiding principle…. There are a lot of opinions out there.”

Pennsylvania And Michigan Expected To Hold Online Gambling Hearings This Week

March 5, 2017

Online Poker Report

By Steve Ruddock

UPDATE 3/6 12:27 p.m. PST: Michigan’s online gambling hearing is now confirmed for March 8 at 1:00 p.m. EST.

Online gambling bills have been introduced in six states in the opening months of 2017:

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. New York
  3. Michigan
  4. Massachusetts
  5. California
  6. New Hampshire

In two of those states online gambling hearings have been tentatively scheduled to be held this week: Pennsylvania and Michigan.

What to expect at the Pennsylvania hearing

The first hearing will take place in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, March 7 at 2 PM EST, a joint affair involving the House Gaming Oversight Committee and the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee.

Sources expect the hearing to follow a similar format to what we’ve grown accustomed to, with some invited witnesses offering different information and points of view – including a representative for the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, or CSIG for short.

But, as Representative Rosita Youngblood told Online Poker Report, witness testimony isn’t really needed.

“Over the last two years, the House, in a strong bipartisan manner, focused heavily on gaining as much information and facts on the pros and cons of iGaming as possible,” Youngblood said. “And that research showed that regulating iGaming would have no ill-effect on casinos, but in fact would enhance their operations.”

Simply put, Pennsylvania’s online gambling efforts are beyond the point of informational hearings.

More important will be the comments and questions coming from the legislators at the hearing. This is what we should be keeping an eye on as it will tell us a lot about where the state is at when it comes to online gambling legalization.

The hope is that the hearing is more of a formality than true hurdle as the two legislative bodies continue to work on the few remaining points of disagreement in their dueling gaming reform bills:

  1. Which gaming reforms should be included in the gaming reform bill with online gambling, daily fantasy sports and the local tax share fix?
  2. What tax rate should be imposed on online gambling operators? The House is calling for a 14 percent rate while the Senate is in the 20-25 percent range.

If these two issues are resolved the bill shouldn’t face very much opposition.

Upshot for Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has been working on online gambling legislation for several years and is the leading candidate to pass an online gaming legalization bill this year.

But, as online gambling supporters have learned repeatedly, close doesn’t always mean close enough.

If the hearing turns into a lawmaker-driven argument over the merits of online gambling, with multiple lawmakers expressing skepticism and whether or not regulation is even a good idea, we might be in for a tougher slog than thought.

Michigan hearing

The second hearing isn’t official yet, but industry sources expect an online gambling hearing in Michigan on Wednesday, March 8.


The hearing would take place in front of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee, where they are also expected to vote on that state’s newly introduced online gaming bill, S 203.

An affirmative vote (which seems likely considering six of the committee’s nine members are sponsors of the legislation), would send the bill to the full senate for consideration.

In 2016 this same committee held a hearing in May where a contingent from PokerStars testified. A month later the Regulatory Reform Committee somewhat quietly passed an amended version of the bill, but the bill was left to wither on the vine.

It’s unclear if the rumored hearing will be informational like the May 2016 hearing, or if it will be more like the second, with just a few minutes of talk followed by a vote.

Upshot for Michigan

Michigan jumped into the online gambling conversation last year when State Senator Mike Kowall introduced online gambling legislation and spoke very optimistically about its chances throughout the session.

The bill made some quick progress, raising the hopes of online gaming advocates, before the measure ultimately fizzled out.

It will be interesting to see what questions still remain a year later, and what – if any – compromises and partnerships have been forged.

Michigan Introduces Online Gaming Legislation

March 3, 2017


By Jason Glatzer

This week, Michigan introduced The Lawful Internet Gaming Act, that, if passed, would regulate many forms of online gaming including online poker.

A gaming bill similar to what is being proposed now was introduced last year. There appeared to be some momentum with the Michigan Senate Regulatory Reform Committee, who overwhelmingly approved an online poker and casino bill by an 8-1 vote. However, that is where the process stalled with neither house voting on the bill.

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act appears to have similar initial momentum. Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall, who is on the Senate Committee, sponsored the bill which is co-sponsored by five other committee members including Rick Jones, Rebekah Warren, Marty Knollenberg, Curtis Hertel and Bert Johnson.

With just nine members on the committee and six involved in the bill’s sponsorship, the bill could once again move forward to the next steps of becoming a law.

Steve Ruddock outlined the bill on Online Poker Report. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the bill for online poker enthusiasts is that it will be mandatory for licensed operators to offer online poker if they are offering other regulated online gaming services as well.

Most of the other portions of the bill appear to be similar to last year’s proposal. Only land-based casinos in Michigan can apply for a license; however, there will be no cap on the number of licenses.

Fees for operators appear reasonable with a five-year license costing $200,000 for the first year and $100,000 in subsequent years. Ruddock points out that this is much cheaper than what is being proposed in three other states with online gaming regulation being proposed. California is asking for $12.5 million up front, New York is asking for $10 million and Pennsylvania is asking for $8 million.

Platform licenses will run $100,000 for the first year and $50,000 in subsequent years, while vendor licenses will be $5,000 and $2,500 in subsequent years.

Players will be required to be at least 21 years old in order to play on regulated online gaming sites, similar to what is the case in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey, which all allow for regulated online gaming. Additionally, the bill allows for compacts with other states.

Stay tuned at PokerNews as more develops in Michigan.

Report: Online gambling can bring Pa. more than $400 million in next six years

February 27, 2017

The Morning Call

By Matt Assad and Steve Esack

A report released Monday states Pennsylvania can rake in more than $400 million by 2022 if lawmakers legalize online gambling.

The 14-page white paper comes as state legislators prepare to open hearings about how to use expanded gambling statewide to help fill a multibillion-dollar hole in the state budget for 2017-18.

Lawmakers will view the report with a skeptical eye because it was produced by Play Pennsylvania and — two online gambling industry organizations that stand to gain by the legalization of internet gambling in Pennsylvania. Play Pennsylvania is a website focused almost exclusively on getting internet gambling legalized in Pennsylvania, and Online Poker Report is an web publication that follows online gambling across the globe.

“I view every piece of information about this skeptically because everyone has a bias in some way,” said Rep. Scott Petri, R-Bucks, who chairs the House Gaming Oversight Committee, which will begin hearings March 7. “But I’m still interested in the report. We’ll take everything into account.”

The report, by analyst Robert DellaFave, projects that the state will collect $126 million in upfront licensing fees from casinos operating the online gambling sites, and $46 million a year in taxes beginning after the first year. With projected revenues of $230 million in the first year, growing to $364 million by year 2022, a tax rate of 20 percent would bring the state $426 million for the first five years. It bases those rosy projections, at least in part, on legalized gambling in New Jersey that grew from $122 million in gross revenue in 2014 to nearly $200 million in 2016.

“Of any state that has already legalized some form of online gambling or is actively exploring the idea, Pennsylvania represents the biggest economic upside,” DellaFave wrote.

The projections only slightly outpace those included in a fiscal note attached to an online gambling bill floated last year in the House. While that bill projected licensing fees of $96 million and $42 million in tax revenues after the first year, DellaFave projects $126 million in fees following by $46 million in taxes the first year.

“These predictions are about as reliable as Warren Beatty’s best picture envelope,” said John Ashbrook, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which is funded by Sands Casino owner Sheldon Adelson. “It’s not surprising that online gaming consultants would exaggerate numbers to help their business.”

It’s entirely possible that both projections are high, because both assume that all 12 state casinos will pay the fee, but officials at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem have steadfastly opposed online gambling and signaled that they will not participate if it is legalized.

The report also assumes a 20 percent tax rate, while the bill introduced this month calls for a 16 percent tax rate. The report theorizes that Pennsylvania’s market will easily outperform New Jersey’s because its 12.8 million people is 4 million more, and its casinos spread out across the state make its rollout quicker than in New Jersey, where all of the casinos are in Atlantic City.

“There’s no voodoo involved in these projections,” said Chris Grove, an editor and spokesman for “These projections are based on New Jersey’s experience and adjusted for Pennsylvania’s casino industry and demographics.”

Grove said the report is designed to keep Pennsylvania from falling into the trap that New Jersey fell into in 2014. In his 2014 budget address, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie projected $200 million in tax revenue from online gambling that ultimately produced less than $20 million that year.

There’s no telling how much lawmakers will rely on the latest report, but there’s little question they’re counting on internet gambling to bolster state revenues.

The state’s 2016-17 budget assumed an extra $100 million in revenue from various forms of gambling expansion, but a gambling expansion never passed. Still, Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2017-18 budget proposal assumes that expansion will add $100 million in revenue this year and another $150 million beginning next year.

Twitter @matthewassad21



2017 – $126 million

2018 – $46 million

2019 – $51.8 million

2020 – $59 million

2021 – $66.2 million

2022 – $77.3 million


Is online gambling driving additional business at Atlantic City casinos?

February 19, 2017

New Jersey 101.5

By Dino Flammia

Internet gambling revenue in New Jersey surged more than 32 percent in 2016, and a new study from gaming industry research group Eilers & Krejcik anticipates additional growth of 17 percent this year.

But perhaps the best news for Atlantic City in this study is the perceived impact online gaming is having on the seven remaining brick-and-mortar casinos.

“Online gambling is becoming a highly effective tool for Atlantic City’s casinos,” the report stated. “Increased integration between the online and live casino appears to be driving additional play and visitation at land-based properties.”

With the gambling seaside town already decimated by competing casinos in neighboring states, it’s been debated for some time whether the ability to wager online would suck even more potential customers out of Atlantic City.

But the report insists online gambling revenue is not coming at the expense of casino gambling revenue. In fact, operator commentary consistently confirms that the online product is capturing new customers and reactivating existing ones, the report said.

“What internet gaming is doing is allowing people to be familiar with gaming in the comfort of their own home,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. “Now once a player becomes familiar online with your internet gaming … typically when they want to go visit a brick-and-mortar property, they are probably going to visit your property.”

Also getting online customers — old and new — out of their homes and to the casinos themselves are player rewards that can only be used in person, such as free meals and discounted overnight stays.

Pandit said it’s no surprise that online gaming may be leading to more brick-and-mortar business, as many gamblers seek an “experience.” Some players prefer to wager in their pajamas in the comfort of their own home, but others may crave the real casino atmosphere from time to time, interacting with others and having several entertainment and dining options just seconds away.

Compared to the same month one year ago, Atlantic City’s casinos posted a 7.7 percent gambling revenue gain in January. Internet gambling provided $18.8 million for the month.

Commentary: Pa. must approve online gaming

January 30, 2017

The Philadelphia Inquirer

By John Pappas

Unless you were looking closely, you probably missed the recent news that gambling revenue in Atlantic City increased last year for the first time in a decade.

According to the chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, current operators increased revenue from slots and table games by 2.1 percent, while online gaming revenues shot up by 32.1 percent – accounting for nearly $200 million just from online.

The news should be a wake-up call to Pennsylvania legislators concerned about a more than $600 million budget shortfall and the long-term competitiveness of the commonwealth’s gaming industry. It should also put the final nail in the coffin for the repeatedly debunked argument that somehow online gaming will cannibalize brick-and-mortar casinos. It doesn’t. End of story.

Last summer, the General Assembly and Gov. Wolf passed a budget that included $100 million in tax revenue from online gaming license fees. That’s $100 million the state could use as funding for education, job training, fighting the opioid epidemic, or paying salaries at the state Department of Labor – which recently laid people off because of a lack of funding.

Regrettably, the state has failed to pass the legislation needed to regulate online gaming in Pennsylvania, leaving all of that money on the table. The decision – influenced by special interests and election-year politics – nullified the commonwealth’s ability to help fund key programs for families, seniors, veterans, and more.

The state can no longer afford to turn its back on this revenue – and its taxpayers. It’s time to get down to business and pass an online gaming bill now.

Action is even more urgent given that Pennsylvania’s casinos are subject to the same struggles encountered by New Jersey. Last year, half of Pennsylvania’s casinos lost money when compared with 2015. In other words, inaction is allowing New Jersey to regain ground lost to Pennsylvania over the last decade or so.

When online gaming was enacted in New Jersey, there was no yardstick to measure success by. No populous state had ever launched online gaming. Now, with the initial kinks worked out and the market up-and-running at full speed, New Jersey is proving to be a tremendous success.

With the lessons from New Jersey learned, Pennsylvania can easily avoid start-up issues like time-consuming and onerous registration processes, geolocation technology that often-generated false positives, difficulty getting transactions approved, and no mobile platforms.

That means the industry could hit its stride more easily in the commonwealth, with new and more revenue being generated at a much faster rate. That’s good news for Pennsylvania taxpayers and our economy.

What must not be overshadowed in a debate about dollars and cents is the importance of consumer protections that regulated online gaming would bring. While Pennsylvania delays action, a black market that harms and takes advantage of consumers will continue to exist. Last October, another off-shore site shut down. Because there is no oversight in Pennsylvania, there is nothing affected players can do to hold sites accountable or get their money back.

Pennsylvania’s budget problems will continue to compound annually. No, tax revenue from online gaming alone will not change that. But it will help fill part of the $600 million deficit and it will provide a steady and increasing source of revenue for decades to come.

If Pennsylvania wants to re-imagine government, online gaming is one way to make it happen. Regulating online gaming is a win-win. The commonwealth must act now.

John Pappas is executive director of the Poker Players Alliance.

Gambling expansion likely for Pennsylvania in 2017, lawmakers say

January 16, 2017


By Mark Gruetze

Two Western Pennsylvania state senators are in the middle of a push for a comprehensive gambling expansion bill that is likely to add online casino games and resolve legal problems with a $10 million a year payment to communities with casinos.

Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, and Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, plan to introduce their parties’ versions of bills to bolster the state’s gambling industry. Among the issues the bills could address are:

• Making Pennsylvania the largest state to approve online casino gambling for anyone physically within its borders. Only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware currently allow internet gambling.

• Regulating Daily Fantasy Sports betting.

• Allowing gambling at airports or other non-casino sites.

• Determining a legally acceptable method for continuing the “local share assessment” that most casinos pay to the communities where they are based. The state Supreme Court ruled in September that the existing levy of a flat $10 million or 2 percent of gross slot machine revenue was unconstitutional because it treats casinos unequally.

• Eliminating the $10 “amenity” fee for people wanting to gamble at the state’s two resort casinos, including Lady Luck Nemacolin in Fayette County.

The Senate and House formally begin work on Jan. 23. Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe County, expressed confidence that a comprehensive bill will be approved.

“Sometime in March, we’ll have something done and passed in the House and Senate,” said Scavello, chairman of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, which handles gambling legislation. “It looks like online gaming has the support to pass. We can look at other expansions.”

Casey Long, director of policy and legislative affairs in the office of Senate President Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, said Republicans expect to move a gambling bill through the Senate this session but did not say when. He said Ward will introduce the bill.

Costa outlined his proposal in a co-sponsorship memo recently circulated in Harrisburg. Ward said she will work with Scavello and other Senate leaders in drafting her bill. Scavello plans to meet Tuesday with key House and Senate members on what a comprehensive bill should include.

Republicans hold a 34-16 majority in the Senate and a 121-81 majority, with one vacancy, in the House. Last year, the House twice passed comprehensive gambling bills, including online gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports, but the Senate failed to act on them.

Ward, who was chair of the Recreational Development committee last session, has pushed for steering some tax revenue from gaming expansion to counties adjacent to those with casinos.

Westmoreland County borders Allegheny, Washington and Fayette counties, which all have casinos. But Westmoreland doesn’t get any of the local assessment payment. In some areas, she said, multiple counties agreed to share the fee when casino gambling was legalized, but that didn’t happen throughout the state.

“Westmoreland is the biggest example of a county losing out because we are surrounded by three counties that are making money from (casino gambling),” said Ward, now chair of the Senate’s Labor and Industry committee. “We can leverage that for economic development. I want to see us economically survive and prosper.”

She said she doesn’t object to allowing gambling at airports, but it shouldn’t be limited to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. If airport gambling is approved, an operator might want to offer it at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport near Latrobe, she added.

Costa said his bill would allow all forms of online casino gaming, including slots and table games, and regulate Daily Fantasy Sports.

“I think it’s a natural progression of gaming in Pennsylvania, the next logical step,” he said. “To some degree, both (iGaming and DFS) are already present, particularly fantasy sports. What we’re doing is regulating it.

“I think the people of Pennsylvania believe this is something that’s appropriate right now.”

Costa’s memo said the bill would impose a 25-percent tax on gross revenue from either form of gambling. The most recent House-approved bill would have set an online gambling tax rate of 16 percent and a DFS rate of 12 percent. In traditional casinos, the state gets 54 percent of gross slot revenue and 16 percent of table game revenue. Costa’s proposal would ban internet gaming on casino property because of the difference in tax rates.

The tax on internet gambling would be divided between property tax relief and economic development projects.

Sixty percent would be deposited in the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund; 20 percent would go toward economic development projects in counties bordering those that host a casino; and 20 percent would be available for projects in all 67 counties.

Costa’s proposal also would authorize iGaming tablets at the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh airports for a five-year pilot period and permit online lottery games. Resort casinos could pay the state $1 million a year for five years to be open to all patrons at no charge.

His memo estimates the bill would generate $137 million for the state’s 2016-17 budget, all from licensing fees. An internet gaming license would cost $10 million. Other proposed fees: internet gaming vendor, $5 million each; airport tablet gaming fee in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, $2.5 million each; and DFS license, $2.5 million each.

Pennsylvania has 12 casinos and ranks second to Nevada in annual gaming revenue.

Ward and Scavello emphasized a desire to increase gambling tax revenue from expansion rather than boosting existing rates.

“They pay enough already,” Ward said. Noting the economic development and jobs casinos have brought to the state since the first one opened in 2006, she added: “We don’t want to do anything to hurt that.”

Mark Gruetze is the Tribune-Review’s gambling columnist. Reach him at

Struggling Atlantic City finally increases revenues thanks to online gambling

January 13, 2017


By James Ford

HOBOKEN, N.J. — Atlantic City has suffered so much financial loss over the last decade that five of its casinos have closed since 2013, leaving only seven left in operation. However, new information shows that last year, Atlantic City’s casino revenues grew for the first time in more than 10 years, but that most of that growth is due to gamblers staying away from Atlantic City.

The cause of the increase is, apparently, online gaming on the websites of the Atlantic City casinos. It’s up some 32 percent from the year before, making for total revenues of $197 million, according to New Jersey gambling regulators.

“I’d say it’s shocking,” said Matthew Madrigal, a New Jersey resident who said that he prefers actual casino gambling to online play.

Martin Espinoza, a New Yorker who works in Hoboken, agreed. “I’m surprised,” he told PIX11 News.

“I guess some people are willing to let their information be out on the internet,” Espinoza added. He said that he was unwilling to gamble online, even though it would be quite easy for him to do so in the Garden State, as millions do each year.

All it takes is for the desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone or other device to be detected in New Jersey for the person connected to that device to be able to access the casinos’ websites.

It’s helped to make New Jersey far and away the number one state in the nation for online gambling activity. Only two other states, Nevada and Delaware, allow online gaming, but New Jersey eclipses both of those states in online gambling revenue.

“Online gaming has absolutely helped Atlantic City,” said Professor Donald Hoover of Fairleigh Dickinson University, a gaming expert. He said that internet gambling is happening, whether or not New Jersey sanctions it.

“It’s not even that I’m a proponent of it,” Hoover said in a FaceTime interview. “but in a regulated environment, it’s absolutely helpful.”

He said that it’s mutually beneficial for gamblers and casinos. The casinos gain greater revenues and online gaming customers’ use is monitored by Know Your Customer, or KYC, software.

As a result, said Prof. Hoover, “It’s much easier to track problem gambling on the internet” and help the gambler with his or her problem.

Online gambling only comprises about 8 percent of overall revenues at Atlantic City casinos, according to state regulators, but that was enough to raise overall revenues by 1.5 percent to $2.6 billion in 2016.

Atlantic City casinos: first revenue boost in 10 years

January 12, 2017

Asbury Park Press

Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY – Internet gambling helped Atlantic City’s casinos post their first revenue increase in a decade.

Figures released Thursday by New Jersey gambling regulators show the casinos won $2.6 billion from gamblers in 2016, an increase of 1.5 percent from a year earlier.

The last time Atlantic City casino revenue increased was in 2006, just as a wave of Pennsylvania casinos began opening and drawing away Atlantic City’s customers. The city had 12 casinos that year; now it has seven.

Only two casinos posted revenue declines during the year, in which less competition and a continuing boost from New Jersey’s nation-leading online gambling industry helped Atlantic City casinos start to find a new equilibrium. It follows a brutal three year-period that saw five casinos close and 11,000 jobs lost.

The Trump Taj Mahal, which was opened by President-elect Donald Trump in 1990, shut down on Oct. 10. But Matt Levinson, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, thinks better days are arriving for Atlantic City’s casino industry.

“These are some strong numbers, especially with all the bad news about Atlantic City’s ‘demise,’ ” he said. “There’s a lot of good news here. We have some stronger casinos now, and internet gambling continues to increase. The hope is we’re entering a stable environment now.”

Tom Polhman, general manager of the Golden Nugget, said the Atlantic City market has “right-sized itself to the point where we’re not over-saturated anymore. I’d like to think things had hit rock bottom and we’ll all get better from here.”

Internet gambling revenue in New Jersey rose by more than 32 percent last year to nearly $197 million. New Jersey is one of three states in the U.S. where internet gambling is legal, along with Nevada and Delaware, but New Jersey is by far the largest online market.

It is divided among five competitors: Borgata ($47 million); Golden Nugget ($42.2 million); Caesars Interactive-NJ ($38.6 million); Tropicana ($36.9 million) and Resorts Digital ($31.7 million).

The seven surviving casinos also saw their on-premises winnings from gamblers increase by 2.1 percent last year to $2.28 billion. When the Taj Mahal is included in the comparison, the eight casinos saw a collective revenue decrease of 0.3 percent.

When revenue from slot machines, table games and internet operations is included, only two of the seven currently operating casinos saw their revenue decline last year. Harrah’s was down 4.3 percent to $358 million, and Caesars was down 2.7 percent to $302 million.

The Borgata remains Atlantic City’s top casino; the $769 million it took in last year was more than twice the total of its nearest competitor, Harrah’s. The Golden Nugget ($251.9 million) and Tropicana ($341.1 million) each posted 9 percent revenue increases for the year.

For the month of December 2016, the seven surviving casinos won $208 million, an 8.6 percent revenue increase over the December 2015 figure.

David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said Atlantic City still needs to focus on its recent efforts to diversify its offerings beyond casinos.

“At this point, it should be clear that relying on gaming revenues is not the way ahead,” he said. “There needs to be a focus on broader tourism and diversification into non-hospitality areas.”

Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board estimates its 2016 casino revenue will be about $3.2 billion once final figures are reported, an increase of about 1 percent.


Here’s how each casino performed in 2016, compared to 2015:

Bally’s: $210 million, up 0.1 percent

Borgata: $769 million, up 3.8 percent

Caesars: $302 million, down 2.7 percent

Golden Nugget: $251 million, up 9 percent

Harrah’s: $358 million, down 4.3 percent

Resorts: $173 million, up 6.7 percent

Tropicana: $341 million, up 9 percent

Trump Taj Mahal: $125 million (shut down Oct. 10, 2016)


Internet-only entities:

Caesars Interactive-NJ: $38.6 million, up 18.6 percent

Resorts Digital: $31 million, up 373 percent

Source: New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement

Casinos see first revenue rebound in decade

January 12, 2017

Nicholas Huba
Staff Writer

ATLANTIC CITY — The city’s casino industry is showing signs of rebounding from a decadelong slide.

Despite the closing of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the industry saw its first annual revenue increase in 10 years, thanks to a thriving internet gambling market.

Revenue reached $2.6 billion, an increase of 1.5 percent over the previous year, according to state Division of Gaming Enforcement figures released Thursday afternoon.

“I look forward to this trend continuing in 2017,” said Matthew Levinson, chairman and CEO of the Casino Control Commission.

Internet gambling drove the increase of 32 percent to $196.7 million compared with 2015.

Brick-and-mortar casino revenue totaled $2.4 billion, a decrease of less than 1 percent.

Online gaming operations such as PokerStars play a huge role in gaming revenue growth, said Colin Mansfield, a casino analyst with Fitch Ratings.

“Overall, the gaming numbers met our expectations,” Mansfield said. “We see it as a $2.4 billion market for the next couple of years. There aren’t huge catalysts that are going to push it in either direction.”

The Taj, once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by former owner and President-elect Donald J. Trump, closed Oct. 10 after management accused striking Unite Here Local 54 members of preventing a “path to profitability.”

For December, gaming revenue for the remaining seven casino properties totaled $189.6 million, an increase of about $22 million from December 2015, a 13.6 percent increase year over year. That figure excludes the Taj Mahal. Levinson attributed the increase to having New Year’s Eve on a Saturday.

“Having New Year’s Eve on a Saturday night and plain old good luck provided a big boost for the casinos in December,” he said.

Every casino licensee reported increased revenue, including two that are internet-only licensees, Levinson said.

Over the past year, the casino industry has been laying the foundation that could turn the city’s gaming market around, said Bob Ambrose, instructor of hospitality and gaming at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“By no means do I want to diminish the negatives of the past and the loss of jobs by recent casino/hotel closures, but we are seeing a one-step-at-a-time initiative by some of the corporate stakeholders that gives hope and a little back to the city image with each new venture,” Ambrose said.

Contact: 609-272-7046 Twitter @ACPressHuba