The Borgata introduced eCasino on February 18, making it the first land-based American casino to allow its customers to bet on video slots and poker on television.  To play, checked-in guests, with a player’s card, from its in 2,000 rooms must deposit designated funds in an eWallet account. The daily maximum is $2,500.
A 90-day trial will test for any technology glitches before introducing Internet gaming. Borgata and enforcement officials stress the differences between eCasino and Internet. As Borgata co-owner/operator Boyd Gaming operates casinos in six states, senior management is closely watching.
If successful, we will see an expansion – via smartphones, etc. – throughout Atlantic City casinos resorts‘ properties. Borgata‘s recent $50 million renovation included $6 million in technology investments.
Initial opinions of 50 mid-week guests – all over 45 – were mixed. Many disliked the minimal social interaction. However, since the under-35 crowd typically limits their interpersonal communications for their personal technology, it should succeed.
Groups are again buying into Atlantic City. The Meruelo Group, a non-gaming company owned by U.S. Latino business executive Alex Meruelo, will pay $20 million for the Trump Plaza by May 31. The Plaza has Atlantic City’s best Boardwalk location and Meruelo plans over $100 million in renovations. Paul Steelman, Atlantic City native and current award-winning Las Vegas casino architect, will lead the design work.
Last year, Landry’s CEO Tillman Fertitta paid $38 million and spent $150 million to renovate the Trump Marina into the gorgeous Golden Nugget. Also, MGM has reapplied for its Borgata co-ownership license after years on the market.
After Mohegan Sun purchased Resorts Atlantic, it immediately began developing its upcoming Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville complex.  Multiple other projects are on the drawing boards and the beloved Miss America Pageant will return after a seven-year absence.
Not everyone is thriving or applauding. After 10 troubled months, the $2.4 billion Revel has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It will provide Revel with hundreds of millions in financial assistance to continue operations and payments.
I’m sad to hear it. The giant property has faced both internal and external struggles since opening last April. From devastating storms that impacted visitation to the smoke-free casino and  high-priced retail, dining, spa and entertainment outlets, mid-level customers may have found it intimidating. The jaw-dropping architecture, limits easy entry straight from the Boardwalk.
I’ve heard CEO Kevin DeSanctis, a really smart, direct kind of guy, speak for years. His entire team has poured its collective heart into Revel’s success, overcoming a tragic executive/supplier plane crash, a construction shutdown and changing investors. I hope they overcome this obstacle, especially since they have Christie‘s full support.
Sixty miles west, Pennsylvania‘s gaming officials heard six individual presentations for Philadelphia‘s second license in mid-February. Among them, gaming icon Steve Wynn came with cash promises and pizzazz, claiming that casinos drive business. His philosophy countered some of his competitors, whose visions placed casinos within a planned business environment. The Board’s decision is months away.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
During the presentation, Wynn labeled Atlantic City the “enemy.” I admire him, but reject his allegation. Wynn earned great wealth and national gaming acclaim during his seven years in Atlantic City during the 1980s.
Admittedly, onerous regulations and restrictions hampered operators. Yet, Wynn still ultimately sold his Golden Nugget to Bally Manufacturing Corp. in 1987 for $440 million. His sizable profit funded his journey towards Las Vegas gaming greatness in 1989 when he opened the game-changing Mirage.
Fortunately, New Jersey’s gaming conditions have dramatically eased in 26 years and will further streamline under Christie‘s forward-leaning leadership.
Atlantic City will generate new appeal with Internet gaming, but again won’t be first. On February 21, Governor Brian Sandoval legalizing online gambling in Nevada, requiring a $500,000 license fee and $250,000 renewal. Their race to beat New Jersey paid off.
Christie previously vetoed an online bill, but planned to later sign an amended version with a 10-year trial and 15% tax rate. All 12 casinos would participate in Atlantic City’s largest gaming expansion since 1978. New Jersey has the highest state population density – 1,195.5 people per square mile – offering a huge potential profit.
Nothing will matter if the American economy remains flat. Analysts already report the negative impact of the January 2% payroll tax increase, plus climbing gas prices. The lifeblood of gaming, less leisure spending will hurt. The labor market is also an issue, so I promise to tackle them both next month.