AP News

Cellphones may accelerate NJ online gambling


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Internet gambling analysts and casino executives say the increased use of cellphones to place bets could accelerate the growth of the nascent industry in New Jersey.

"Mobile applications will play an enormous piece of the puzzle in online wagering, which is why we are so positive and see so much upside in months ahead," said Joe Lupo, senior vice president of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, which began offering gambling Monday over Android cellphones on 3G and 4G networks.

Lupo's casino also allows phones using WiFi connections to access its online gambling sites.

The casinos won $7.4 million over the Internet in December. January's $9.5 million represented a 28 percent increase. But Lupo said those numbers don't take into account the vast potential of gambling over mobile devices and phones, which is starting to happen. Nearly 200,000 online gambling accounts had been created in New Jersey through the end of January.

Casinos including the Borgata; Caesars Atlantic City; the Tropicana Casino and Resort; Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, and the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort offer Internet gambling over mobile devices, while the Golden Nugget Atlantic City plans to launch the service next month.

The Golden Nugget's vice president of online gambling, Thomas Winter, said smartphones and tablet devices will account for more than 20 percent of the casino's Internet gambling revenue this year and more than 50 percent within three years.

The availability of cellphones and mobile devices varies widely from casino to casino, largely because state casino regulators are granting approval on a case-by-case basis for each casino's technology. The phones or mobile devices must meet rigorous geolocation standards intended to ensure that the users are within New Jersey's physical boundaries, a key requirement of the law authorizing Internet gambling in the state. Some cellphone networks remain vulnerable to technology that hides the source or location of a call, known as spoofing.

"Cellphones can be used for online wagering — and are being used — so long as they have a WiFi connection so they can pass the geolocation requirements," said Lisa Spengler, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

She said the gaming enforcement division is working with geolocation technology providers to develop a solution that would enable cellphones to connect to gambling sites without WiFi connections so long as they meet certain technical standards.

The Taj Mahal and its Ultimate casino partner and the Tropicana and its Gamesys partner are approved for cellphone use through cellphone networks, Spengler said.

Caesars Interactive, which runs online gambling for two of the company's four Atlantic City casinos, has had a mobile app for its World Series of Poker brand since December. The company is working toward approval of similar apps for its CaesarsCasino.com and HarrahsCasino.com sites.

Seth Palansky, a spokesman for Caesars Interactive, said 22 percent of play on the WSOP site comes from mobile devices.

"With tablet growth increasing and smartphone adoption continuing to reach more and more, it is clear the future of the majority of gaming experiences will be on these devices," he said.

Fitch Ratings says it expects the rollout of mobile device gambling to speed up the growth of Internet gambling in New Jersey. The agency reaffirmed its forecast that Internet gambling in New Jersey will produce revenue in the $200 million to $300 million range in its first year.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC


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