Sportsbooks and esports might be the keys to Atlantic City’s continued success in gaming, according to a panel of experts. Industry leaders shared that view on Thursday, during an event held to recognize the 45th anniversary of voters legalizing casino gaming in New Jersey.
"The customer is always going to determine the industry, and a lot of those folks are young right now, and they game online and do things differently than what was offered in the past," said Michael Epps, former commissioner of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, as reported by The Press of Atlantic City.
A five-person panel made up of industry experts discussed the future of the industry as part of the event, which was hosted by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University. The main takeaway from the session was that the casino sector will have to continue to evolve should it continue to attract customers.
Legalized casino gambling has succeeded beyond initial expectations, according to Steven Perskie, a former lawmaker who helped draft gaming legislation in the 1970s. But moving forward, casino executives should emphasize sports betting to maintain that momentum, the panelists agreed on Thursday.
Sports betting was legalized in New Jersey in 2018 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). That decision made it possible for other states to follow New Jersey in legalizing sports wagering and, a few years later, the segment has become one of the nation’s top gaming types.
But going forward, esports should also be atop the casinos’ objectives, panelists said, as reported by The Press. The experts all agreed there is a need for the city’s gaming halls to offer more than slot machines and dealer-run card tables.
Another issue that took center stage at the event was the debate surrounding a proposed casino smoking ban. While smoking was banned in most indoor areas in New Jersey in 2006, casinos remained an exception. Nowadays, Atlantic City properties allow smoking in about one-quarter of their gaming areas.
Casino workers in the Garden State have long pushed for the introduction of a total ban, and at Thursday's meeting, about 10 casino employees attended the discussion, where they asked for help from “influential people” in Jersey Shore gambling. But their demand has been met with opposition from the industry thus far, with executives maintaining that jobs would need to be slashed to make up for lost profits that would result from a ban.
“We have to stabilize this industry … There's a time for eliminating smoking, but we have to get out of this,” said Mark Giannantonio, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and of Resorts Casino Hotel.
The smoking ban debate comes as the city’s nine casinos rebound from harsh economic conditions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the city’s gaming halls’ profits are 2.7% higher than during the same period in 2021, casino executives argue that in-person win has been the slowest segment to recover, which would be further affected by the proposed ban.