Atlantic City’s land casinos’ imminent online gambling launch looks like the gambling town’s last hope for revenue sustainability

When you’re the only game in town – or even a region – you might be able to get away with a confusing and constantly changing marketing approach, and less-than-stellar customer offerings. But for Atlantic City – which stood alone as an East Coast gambling mecca when it first legally launched in 1978 – those days are long gone, and with years on years of bleak, bleaker, bleakest revenue returns in what was once considered a recession-proof industry, some think that its 12 land casinos’ launch of Internet gambling sites in a few months may be its only hope for salvation now.

Too Little, Too Late

Unlike Las Vegas – which successfully turned itself into a more-than-gambling, luxury-experience travel destination that has cache the world over – Atlantic City never really got out of being a regional, day-trip-on-the-tour-bus kind of place. Now surrounded by states – such as Maryland and Pennsylvania and soon, New York – which offer just as much, if not more, to their own gambling constituencies, New Jersey doesn’t really have much to offer anyone, and its constantly declining revenues show it.

And it’s not looking to get any better for the beleaguered Garden State either; Maryland Live Casino recently launched that state’s second brick-and-mortar poker room, and had a 1,000-person waiting list on opening.  With 52 tables, the new room is large by East Coast standards, and comes with trendy amenities like phone chargers built right into the tables.  As the final nail in the AC coffin, the Maryland casino has good proximity to both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., cities that would be several hours drive into Atlantic City on a good day.

Which brings us back to Atlantic City’s impending online launch, and why it may be the only way to keep gambling alive in this casino town that’s now on life support.

Head Start for Online Dollars

Because once again, New Jersey will have a monopoly – or at least a head start – on Internet casino gambling at its launch, and although second to Nevada to come to the table, it brings with it a huge state population – 9 million – that Nevada can’t even come close to populate its games with, a reality that is especially important in online poker, which is all Nevada has to offer right now, versus New Jersey’s complete menu of casino gambling options (even sports betting, if Governor Chris Christie has his way down the road). And as actual state residency isn’t required, but simply physically being in the state in order to play online (which is the same as Nevada), one could potentially imagine serious East Coast players renting or buying condos together to share for day or weekend online forays, which might conceivably help the real estate market there as well.

One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that other states with legal land casinos are going to be jumping on the online poker and/or casino bandwagon sooner rather than later. We can only hope New Jersey does a better job of staying competitive online than it’s done of luring customers to its brick-and-mortar casinos.