Unless Gov. Chris Christie objects, Atlantic City casino patrons soon will be able to gamble next to the pool, in their hotel rooms or while waiting in line for the buffet.
The New Jersey Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill that enables casino patrons to use hand-held gambling devices, so long as they are located on casino property.
It’s another in a series of new gambling options Atlantic City is rolling out in its attempt to compete with casinos in nearby states that have diverted thousands of customers and millions of dollars from the seaside resort. New Jersey is also moving toward offering Internet gambling and sports betting.
“Casino gaming is the lifeblood of south Jersey’s economy, and we have to be willing to adapt in order to survive,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan, a sponsor of the bill and a former mayor of Atlantic City. “Hand-held, mobile gaming devices have already been adopted in Las Vegas, and allow casinos the opportunity to extend the gaming floor to anywhere within their premises. By authorizing New Jersey casinos to take advantage of this new technology, we’re putting Atlantic City’s casino industry on an even competitive field with our competitor to the west.”
Casinos would be able to offer electronic versions of games of chance to be played on mobile devices within the casino and adjoining hotel, as well as any outdoor swimming pool area or outdoor recreational area. The player has to first establish an account with the casino, and the bet must be placed, and any winnings paid out, within the casino.
The bill requires that the mobile devices be inoperable outside the casino or hotel.
“With the New Jersey shore as a backdrop, mobile wagering devices could really be a significant revenue stream for our casinos and an important part of their bottom line,” Whelan said. “This bill contains the appropriate safeguards necessary to prohibit underage gambling, and ensures that mobile gaming devices will be governed by the same rules and regulations as any other authorized casino game. As part of the larger efforts to make our casino industry competitive, mobile gaming devices will be a welcome addition to casino wagering in the Garden State.”
The bill now goes to Christie, who has not indicated whether he supports it, but who has championed efforts to help make Atlantic City’s casinos more competitive. A spokesman said the governor will review the bill, which also makes some changes in casino regulation, before deciding whether to sign it.