ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — Internet gambling isn't expected to start in New Jersey until around Thanksgiving, but Atlantic City's 12 casinos must move fast to line up partners for their online operations.
The state Gaming Enforcement Division has told the casinos they have until June 30 to arrange Internet gambling deals.
The short time frame is intended to give state regulators time to examine the qualifications and backgrounds of the companies that want to partner with the casinos, particularly since several foreign companies are considered likely to join with Atlantic City casinos.
One of them, Bwin.party, is based in Gibraltar, and has inked a deal to partner with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa to offer Internet gambling. Joe Lupo, senior vice president of the Borgata, said the casino moved early on to partner with the firm.
"They have a big market share and a tremendous platform," Lupo said.
The four Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment — Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, the Showboat Casino Hotel and Bally's Atlantic City — are partnering with 888 Holdings, said Seth Palansky, of the company's Caesars Interactive division.
The two casinos owned by Trump Entertainment Resorts, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, still are evaluating potential online partners. Each of the casinos will offer a different online brand, company CEO Robert Griffin said. He said he expected a decision "to come right down to the wire" as the deadline nears.
"Our choices are solid," Griffin said. "It will come down to who gives us the best deal for all our shareholders, and who has the strongest brand in gaming."
The Tropicana Casino and Resort and The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel declined to discuss their online plans, and officials at the other three casinos did not immediately return messages Friday seeking comment about their plans.
David Rebuck, director of the Gaming Enforcement Division, said casinos that miss the filing deadline can't be assured they'd be allowed to start offering Internet gambling on the first day it is permitted.
The state also set a July 29 deadline to have completed applications submitted to the division.
New Jersey is one of three states in the nation to legalize Internet gambling, along with Delaware and Nevada, which already has started taking bets online.
The state views online betting as a potential way to turn around a nearly seven-year revenue decline that has plagued Atlantic City's casinos since neighboring states began offering casino gambling, cutting into New Jersey's casino winnings and jobs. In 2006, when the first Pennsylvania casino opened, Atlantic City's casinos took in a high of $5.2 billion. That figure fell to just over $3 billion last year.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC