By Wayne Parry | Associated Press
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – As sports betting has swept across the country and states, casinos and consumers have eagerly embraced a new gambling market, internet casino games have grown at a much slower pace.
But the online casino market has huge potential for growth and expansion, participants at a major casino conference said on Friday.
Speaking at the East Coast Gaming Congress, executives from online gaming companies and their technology partners said the rapid growth of sports betting has created a ready infrastructure and regulatory apparatus for online casino gaming.
So far, such gambling is only legal in six states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut.
But panellists at the conference predicted that three or four other states could soon adopt Internet gambling, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and New York.
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Additionally, according to James Carey, executive director of the New Jersey Lottery, more than a dozen states sell lottery tickets over the Internet.
“I am confident that there is a lot of room for growth,” said Jeffrey Millar, commercial director of Evolution’s North American business, an online casino content provider.
“Growth in this industry is still in its infancy in the US,” added David Rebuck, New Jersey’s top gaming regulator as director of the state’s Department of Gaming Enforcement.
Richard Schwartz, CEO of Chicago-based online gaming company Rush Street Interactive, said states that already have legal sports betting are strong candidates for adopting online casino games.
“They already have regulators in place,” he said. “They set up servers. It’s faster to launch a casino supplement.”
Currently, 31 states plus Washington, DC offer legal sports betting, and a few more are slated to do so soon.
Since the introduction of Internet gambling nine years ago, New Jersey casinos have won $4.79 billion from online gamblers, according to the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s national trade group. That’s nearly double the $2.47 billion Pennsylvania casinos have won online since July 2019.
Michigan has won $2 billion online since January 2021; Connecticut $199.7 million as of October 2021; West Virginia $137.4 million as of July 2020; and Delaware $42.2 million as of December 2013. Nevada offers online poker, but does not separate these revenues from the personal revenues that casinos report to the state.
These figures refer to online casino games only and do not include income from sports betting, which is reported separately.
New Jersey is about to extend its law allowing Internet gambling for another 10 years, and during Thursday’s opening session of the casino conference, the state’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy pledged he would sign the law if it would be accepted.
A 2018 US Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by New Jersey paved the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting should they choose to do so. With this rapid expansion came an expectation in some quarters that internet gambling would almost automatically grow at a similarly rapid pace.
“That didn’t happen,” said Howard Glaser, chief of government services and legal counsel at Light & Wonder, the successor company to gaming technology company Scientific Games.
He said there were persistent concerns, particularly among some state lawmakers, that internet gambling could cannibalize brick-and-mortar casinos’ revenue and customers — although the gaming industry itself has determined that’s not the case.
Casinos initially had the same concerns when New Jersey introduced internet gambling in November 2013. Luisa Woods is Vice President of Delaware North, the gaming, hospitality and sports company that owns casinos in New York, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, West Virginia and Ohio.
Previously, in 2013, she was the director of digital operations at Casino Tropicana in Atlantic City.
“My first task was to sell the company I am not here to compete with your company. I’m here to help him grow,” she said. “We integrated the brand, we created loyalty accounts for every single remote customer. We’ve had people showing up to the property for the first time who have already been assigned a host.”