Atlantic City Casinos Say NJ’s 50% Capacity ‘Doesn’t Do A Lot’

One year ago, Atlantic City casinos sat empty.

Forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city’s nine gambling parlors were devoid of guests for nearly four months.
One week ago, the state of New Jersey increased indoor capacity limits to 50%. That is double the occupancy permitted in the fall and 15% more than two weeks ago.

For a struggling industry like brick-and-mortar casinos, the modest increase is a step in the right direction.

But, executives say whether the capacity limit is 25%, 35%, or 50%, the impact on gambling at Atlantic City casinos is relatively small.

“From a casino floor aspect, it doesn’t do a lot for us,” said Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and regional president of Caesars Entertainment Inc.’s three Atlantic City casinos. “(The capacity increase is) not the biggest thing in the world but every little bit helps.”

Not much will change at Atlantic City casinos

In simplest terms, casino floors in Atlantic City won’t be changing much, even with the eased restrictions

There will still be partitions between seats at table games, with a player cap on every table. A percentage of slot machines will still be turned off to promote social distancing.

To be clear, Atlantic City casinos are not kicking a gift horse in the mouth. They accept the realities of the global pandemic and recognize that things could be worse.

“We just hope to continue to work on (easing) the restrictions and make us more business-friendly,” Callender said.

Keep your distance, please

The real benefit for Atlantic City casinos is the increased business volumes at non-gaming amenities.

“The 50% really (has) an impact in our restaurants, which, on weekends when our restaurants are full and we’ve had long waits, that’s where we weren’t able to accommodate,” said Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. “Atlantic City guests come down here for a multitude of activities. They come down here for the whole experience.”

The catch, however, is similar to what non-casino restaurants and bars have to contend with. Namely, that an increase in capacity means very little in a finite space where social distancing mandates remain in place.

“The six-foot distancing is really inhibiting or intruding on the occupancy levels,” Lupo added. “Unless you want to put up Plexiglas bubbles everywhere, it’s limiting the number of people in some spaces, like our lounges.”

Dinner with an ocean view, deja vu?

A silver lining to last summer’s total indoor dining ban was the expansion of al fresco options. Atlantic City casinos adapted and came up with some creative alternatives to offset food and beverage profit losses.

Visitors to Atlantic City can expect to see many of those same outdoor dining concepts return this summer, Callender said.

“Obviously, last year we did it out of necessity, but people really liked it,” he said. “We have beautiful views here of the ocean and if we can get guests outside, why not (do it)?”

Atlantic City casinos need conventions, entertainment

The one thing Atlantic City casinos all say they absolutely need is meeting and convention business.

The new capacity rules only apply to certain businesses. New Jersey still has limits on the total number of people for indoor gatherings and on select indoor locations, such as banquet halls or large meeting rooms.

In Atlantic City, meetings and conventions drive midweek and non-summer business, the casino executives said.

The East Coast Gaming Congress, for example, is now taking place Oct. 25-26 instead of late May at Harrah’s Resort.

A revival of headlining live entertainment would help, too.

“It’s truly about entertainment and convention business, which books out months in advance,” Lupo said. “So, until there is a more definitive understanding of when occupancies go up, those are the two areas where we’re handcuffed.”

AP Photo/Wayne Parry

NJ Governor Easing Restrictions, AC Casinos Can Operate At 50% Capacity Starting March 19

NJ Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order increasing indoor capacity to 50% for Atlantic City casinos, restaurants, and bars.

The odds of 2021 putting Atlantic City casinos back in the black got much better this week.

NJ Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 230 increasing indoor capacity to 50% for AC’s nine casinos, restaurants, bars, entertainment and recreation venues, gyms, and personal care facilities. The new rules go into effect March 19 at 6 a.m.

Seating at bars is still prohibited.

Indoor capacity had been limited to 25% until recently, when it was expanded to 35% on Feb. 5.

“We feel confident in these steps given the data that we have been seeing over the past five weeks, since the last time we expanded the indoor reality,” Murphy said.

NJ has been among the more deliberate states in reopening its economy as the public threat from the novel coronavirus slowly wanes. Infection rates, total cases, and fatalities have declined in NJ with the availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

“When our restaurant capacity last changed, our hospitals were treating just under 2,900 patients,” Murphy said. “That number has come down by 1,000 and been consistent since then.”

What it means for Atlantic City casinos

Increasing indoor capacity will have little effect on casino floors. Where it will have an immediate impact is casino restaurants, bars, spas, and entertainment venues.

Atlantic City casino executives have been steadfast in their belief that their properties are among the safest indoor public places. Between strict regulatory oversight, industrywide health protocols, and the sheer size of the casinos, executives have been pushing the state to increase occupancy limits.

More than anything, the casinos want the governor to lift restrictions on large indoor gatherings so the industry can resume much-needed midweek convention and meeting business.

“We need meetings and conventions, and an increase to 50% (for indoor dining),” Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and regional president of Caesars Entertainment Inc., said in November. “We feel pretty passionate that we can do this, and we can do this well.”

2020 was devastating in AC

To say that the last 12 months have been devastating for Atlantic City casinos would be a gross understatement.

Thousands of casino workers lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. Millions of dollars in gaming revenue disappeared. Billions of dollars in economic activity for the greater Atlantic City region vanished.

Online casino and sports betting were the only saving graces last year, as both segments experienced explosive growth.

When Murphy ordered AC’s casinos to close last March, it put an end to a 21-month streak of year-over-year total gaming revenue increases.

The 108-day shutdown of the entire industry in 2020 also halted a three-year growth streak of annual casino win (table game and slot machine revenue). In 2019, casino win reported by the nine gambling parlors was just under $2.7 billion. Last year, that figure fell to $1.5 billion, a decline of almost 44%.

Light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel

As bad as 2020 was for Atlantic City casinos, 2021 has given the industry signs of hope

Total gaming revenue (a combination of casino win, online, and sports betting) increased 9.4% in January 2021 over January 2020. The increase is due entirely to online gambling and mobile sports betting, but it is still an overall net positive.

While casino win in January 2021 was collectively down 16.6% for the nine Atlantic City casinos, two properties posted increases. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort reported casino win increases of 23.9% and 21.3%, respectively.

As an added piece of good news, a recent survey conducted by Stockton University found a majority of people felt safe inside Atlantic City casinos and will be returning.

AP Photo/Wayne Parry

Fubo Sportsbook Secures Market Access Into New Jersey But Potential Obstacles Remain

Fubo Sportsbook now has a market access deal done for New Jersey but there are still some hurdles to clear before it can launch

Fubo Sportsbook has been putting the pieces together for an eventual launch in New Jersey for quite a while. It has now secured market access into the Garden State, pending regulatory approval.

That doesn’t mean NJ gamblers will see another sports betting app available anytime soon, though. The brand still has a lot of work to do to actually take its NJ sports betting platform live.

How Fubo Sportsbook will enter New Jersey

On Thursday, fuboTV announced a deal with Caesars Entertainment. So once the app is ready and receives regulatory approval, it will operate under the Caesars Interactive license (along with WynnBet, 888sport, and Caesars Sportsbook).

The partnership gives the media company, which is making its first foray into offering gambling as well, access into not only NJ but Indiana as well.

Additionally, fuboTV announced it reached terms with MLB and the NBA for authorized gaming operator status. Among other things, that gives the company access to the coveted official data feeds.

This deal essentially represents one of the last items for fuboTV to accomplish before it can go live. The process began last year when it acquired Vigtory Sportsbook.

That acquisition also came with licensure to operate a New Jersey online sportsbook. At the time, Vigtory had already been in negotiations for market access with an NJ casino, but wouldn’t disclose which.

Prior to acquiring Vigtory, fuboTV had primarily been a streaming live television and on-demand video service. That is still the primary product.

A press release says it plans to launch in the fourth quarter of this year. Could that be a little too ambitious? How integrated into the streaming product will the sportsbook be? Those are questions that the company will have to answer soon.

Challenges of a novel product

The same press release says that fuboTV plans to marry its streaming media and sports betting platforms into the one “seamless viewing and wagering experience.” There could be some issues with that, however.

First off, there are responsible gambling concerns. If gambling is integral to the streaming product, how does fuboTV ensure that minors and people with compulsive gambling issues aren’t placing bets? That leads directly to compliance issues.

It’s illegal in NJ for anyone under the age of 21 to gamble. Thus, will fuboTV only sell streaming subscriptions to people who are at least that old? Also, it’s illegal to even market sports betting to people who are on self-exclusion lists, much less give them access to a sportsbook. Will fuboTV ensure that subscribers aren’t on any of those lists before giving them access?

It just may not work

Finally, there are quality concerns. Live sports streaming and in-game wagering already suffer lags as compared to real-time. If fuboTV tries to pack both products into one feed simultaneously, those issues could compound.

In that regard, competitors in both the gambling and streaming media industries would have superior products. For example, say you’re watching a New Jersey Devils game on NBC and want to check the goal totals market.

Opening up the sportsbook segment of fuboTV might increase the lag in the game feed, which would, in turn, put you at a competitive disadvantage as far as betting the game goes. It might be better and more enjoyable to instead keep the game playing as it is and just open a sportsbook app on your phone.

That’s a big reason why to this point, no other media company has also tried to be the book, just partnering with sportsbooks instead. The technology simply hasn’t conquered the issue of “sidelining,” or the advantage that in-person spectators have in terms of live betting because they are watching the event in real-time.

fuboTV could sidestep these issues by parceling the two products out. That would completely undo its novel approach to either industry, though. It’s a tall order, but one the company seems determined to take on at this point.

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NJ Online Gambling Options Expanding With Carousel, Caesars Deal

Carousel Group and Caesars Entertainment Inc., will expand the NJ online gambling market in 2021 with the launch of SportsBetting.com.

The NJ online gambling market will soon have another player. Carousel Group and Caesars Entertainment Inc., entered into a multi-state market access agreement to launch SportsBetting.com in three states.

The 10-year deal, announced earlier today via press release,  will allow Carousel to launch its online sportsbook and casino in New Jersey, pending license approval.

The NJ launch is expected by the end of 2021.
The Malta-based company will also launch online sportsbooks in Indiana and Iowa.

Last year, Carousel launched SportsBetting.com in Colorado. The deal with Johnny Nolon’s Casino was the company’s U.S. debut.

Carousel + Caesars ‘perfect’ partners

Carousel Group president and CEO Daniel Graetzer said Caesars was the “perfect strategic partner,” to help the company “aggressively,” expand in the U.S.

“We are also finalizing major updates to our products, including new mobile apps and a cutting-edge casino platform,” Graetzer said. “Bettors continue to be more product savvy, which is why we built a user-centric tech company with full control over the user experience. Our design principles along with our in-house tech and operations will be the key to our long-term success in the U.S.

More on Carousel Group, Caesars deal

The agreement with Caesars will reportedly increase Carousel Group’s addressable market in the U.S. from $109 million to an estimated $1.8 billion, with 24.5 million people residing in the target states.

At the moment, NJ is the crown jewel of the multi-state strategy. NJ’s online gambling revenue more than doubled from 2019 to 2020. Last year, the Garden State’s online casino operators collectively reported $970.34 million.

Caesars Interactive NJ, the online arm of the gaming industry giant, reported just under 10% ($94.8 million) of market revenue.

The Caesars, Harrah’s, WSOP, 888, and  WynnBet online brands operate under the license.

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Boom With A View: Caesars AC Offering Packages To Watch Trump Plaza Implosion

Would you pay $299 for a front and center seat to watch the Feb. 17 implosion of the former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino?

But unlike a pro sporting event, you will not be told to leave immediately after the hotel tower transforms into a pile of rubble.

You see, the price is actually for Caesars Atlantic City’s stay-and-view room package.

Talk about a great view.

The two properties are so close you could jump from one rooftop to the other. Figuratively speaking, of course. The buildings are separated by a Boardwalk access ramp.

Steve Callender, Regional President Caesars Entertainment, weighed in on next week’s historic occasion.

“The proximity of Caesars to the implosion site is the closest most will get to the historic milestone in Atlantic City next week, and we’ve had high demand from guests who are seeking to book rooms & suites with a front row seat to the action,”

“We are releasing a limited number of stay-and-view room packages that offer our guests the opportunity to witness the beginning of a new era for Center Boardwalk and a new view of the Atlantic City skyline.”

Details of Caesars stay-and-view package

Yes, some might consider $299 plus tax a little pricey for an Atlantic City hotel room. We are talking about midweek in February.

However, Feb. 17 will be rather unique as Trump Plaza, which sits at the center of the Boardwalk, has been closed since 2014. So guests will be getting a front row seat, or in this case, a hotel room, to watch Atlantic City history.

As of Friday afternoon, Caesars AC had 27 rooms available specifically for the stay-and-view rate.

Here is what the package includes:

  • A front seat with “exclusive view” to Atlantic City history
  • Champagne delivery
  • 1 p.m. checkout

So making early morning mimosas for the implosion is an option.

Bader Field, which is the public viewing area, will be charging $10 a car. Plus. it’s about two miles away and outside.

Trump Plaza implosion will boost mid-week business

The early Atlantic City forecast for Feb. 17  is 36 degrees and partly cloudy.

Not exactly ideal for taking a walk on the AC Boardwalk or the beach. And besides properties operating at 35% capacity due to the pandemic, it is offseason.

However, was far as Atlantic City implosions go, Trump Plaza will be only the second property to see its fate end with a boom.

Sands Atlantic City, way back in 2007, was the other. And that property has been vacant since.

AP Photo/Wayne Parry

Caesars Connecting To DFS Realm Following SuperDraft Announcement

Caesars Entertainment Inc., announced a strategic investment in SuperDraft, a daily fantasy sports platform based in New Hampshire. 

Caesars Entertainment is expanding its online presence through daily fantasy sports.

On Monday, Caesars announced a strategic investment in SuperDraft, a privately held company based in New Hampshire.

Caesars, the country’s largest gaming operator, will take an “initial minority equity position” in the DFS provider. The company has the option to increase its stake over time, up to 100%, at predetermined levels, according to a news release.

Caesars connects to DFS users

The gambling giant is one of several casino operators looking to reach new customers by capitalizing on the growth of legal sports betting and online gaming. Daily fantasy sports, the company says, does just that.

“The investment complements Caesars’ strong mobile sports and gaming network by adding an innovative fantasy sports platform, further strengthening its pipeline to customer acquisition and retention for both online and brick-and-mortar,” the company said Monday.

SuperDraft will join Caesars’ existing online brands, including World Series of Poker and Caesars Online Casino.

And Caesars is in the process of acquiring U.K.-based sports betting operator William Hill. It already owns roughly 20% of William Hill U.S.

SuperDraft ‘fits seamlessly’ with Caesars

SuperDraft is still fairly new on the daily fantasy sports scene, launching in 2019. The operator provides contests covering seven professional sports in more than 35 states.

Caesars CEO Tom Reeg said adding daily fantasy sports “fits seamlessly with our strategic vision for mobile and online sports.”

“SuperDraft’s innovative multiplier game mode is unique in the marketplace, and we believe it offers a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our position in the sports gaming landscape.”

To kick-off the partnership, Caesars and SuperDraft will launch a $1 million tournament on Feb. 7 called the “Super Million Big Game contest.”

‘Fresh air’ for daily fantasy sports players

SuperDraft founder and CEO Steve Wang said the DFS provider is “super excited to be part of Caesars’ powerful gaming ecosystem.” 

“Daily fantasy players deserve a breath of fresh air, and we’re here to transform the industry,” he said. “SuperDraft is now well-positioned to accelerate its growth with financial staying power, while broadening its consumer appeal with bigger contests and better rewards to players of all interest levels.”

SuperDraft will become a piece of Caesars’ single wallet solution, allowing play both online and in-person. The DFS option is expected to be tied to the Caesars Rewards loyalty program.

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