Publicly, Atlantic City casino representatives say that that their companies are confident about the future, saying their properties offer much more than their new competitors ever will. But privately, one wonders just how anxious they are, as gaming analysts predict Atlantic City’s table-games revenue might decrease as much as 15 percent due to neighboring states’ new gambling laws.Delaware dealt the latest blow to Atlantic City on Thursday when its state senate swiftly passed a bill to allow table games — which could include poker, blackjack, craps, and roulette — to its three casinos. Democratic governor Jack Markell called for the new law in order to raise much-needed funds for the state budget, and House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) officially introduced the bill on Jan. 15.With very little opposition, the bill flew through the state House (passed 27-5 on Jan. 21) and the state senate (15-4 on Thursday) before Gov. Markell made it official by signing it into law.The legislation allows three Delaware casinos — Dover Downs, Delaware Park, and Harrington Raceway & Casino — to offer table games once the properties train dealers and employees. Delaware casino managers and the governor’s office said that customers could expect to see the new games by this summer.As for which table games actually will be allowed, that is a decision for the state lottery commission. However, poker is widely expected to be included at casinos, and most media outlets are reporting a strong possibility of blackjack, craps, and roulette, as well. Gaming analysts believe Delaware will make over $40 million and create 750 new jobs with the new law.As for how the new revenue will be divvied up, casinos will be able to keep 66.1 percent of the pool while the state would be entitled to 29.4 percent of the revenue. The other 4.5 percent will be distributed to the horse racing industry to bolster its purses.The Delaware decision to legalize table games comes just weeks after Pennsylvania passed its own law to establish table games in its state.Only time will tell what impact all of this will have on Atlantic City, the country’s second-largest gaming market. Last year was a difficult one for AC casinos, as they raised a lackluster (by their standards) $3.9 billion — a 13.2 percent decline from 2008 and the worst financial year for the industry since 1997. Of the $3.9 billion in revenue, $1.2 billion of that total came from table games.Gaming analyst Cory Morowitz, chairman of the Morowitz Gaming Advisors, told the Press of Atlantic City that AC table-games revenue could decline up to 15 percent with the new Delaware and Pennsylvania gambling laws.“Atlantic City gets hit both by Delaware and Pennsylvania because they sit within the heart of our feeder markets,” said Morowitz. “When Delaware gets table games, they will draw a lot from the D.C.-Baltimore corridor.”Joseph Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, tried to downplay the potential negative affects the new competition might have on Atlantic City revenue.“We continue to believe that the variety of product and quality of non-gaming amenities we have bode well for Atlantic City’s future,” said Corbo.In an effort to raise additional funds for Atlantic City casinos and the state, New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) introduced a bill earlier this month that would explicitly legalize and regulate online poker and other online casino games within the state .There is no timetable yet on when that bill would be discussed and voted on, but Atlantic City’s mayor and iMEGA, an online poker advocacy group, have already come out in support of the legislation.
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