Last week, New Jersey’s Casino Control Commission approved electronic table games for testing in Atlantic City casinos.
The move has some dealers worried that their jobs could be in jeopardy and the face of gaming could change dramatically in the years ahead.
"It’s just another instance of machines replacing people," said a dealer at Resorts International who asked not to be identified. "Besides putting a lot of people out of work, I don’t think customers will get the same entertainment experience dealing with a faceless electronic device."
So far, casino operators are taking a wait-and-see approach. But some in the industry believe that electronic table games should be part of the mix in Atlantic City because of their growth elsewhere.
Electronic table games are already popular in Pennsylvania and Delaware slot parlors, which are siphoning customers away from Atlantic City’s casinos.
The idea is that Atlantic City will be more competitive if it, too, offers electronic table games, some of which do not require a live dealer.
Most experts agree that keeping Atlantic City competitive with Pennsylvania and Delaware slot parlors is important. But critics point out that the competition from out-of-state includes "slot parlors," which are not what Atlantic City’s casinos were intended to be.
Gambling in Pennsylvania and Delaware is limited to slot parlors and slot machines, and that’s what some critics say electronic table games are — glorified slots.
"Gambling in Atlantic City was supposed to be different," said one casino shift supervisor. "Atlantic City wasn’t going to be grind joints. Licensees are supposed to operate full-scale hotels, with all the amenities needed to make Atlantic City a first-class resort."
The approval of electronic table games in Atlantic City also comes at a time when the United Auto Workers has succeeded in unionizing dealers at three casinos.
Some of the union organizers are viewing electronic table games with suspicion that they could be used as a wedge against union members.
One union official said that if the electronic table games, with their virtual dealers, were someday to take over the city’s casino floors, it would be a major breach of the promises made to New Jersey voters when casinos were approved.
Furthermore, casinos have been replacing full-time dealers with benefits with part-time dealers with no benefits. "This could be another means to removing a productive employee from a middle-class livelihood," the official said.
Of course, Atlantic City is a long way from that point right now. But if casino executives are contemplating anything close to that, they should be aware that there will be resistance, from unions and other concerned parties.