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Lindsay Kramer

Lindsay is a writer with a passion for all things New Jersey. In addition to covering the latest in New Jersey gambling news, Lindsay writes about law, politics, and writes fiction in her spare time. Her favorite slot machine is Kitty Glitter.

About Lindsay Kramer

Lindsay is a writer with a passion for all things New Jersey. In addition to covering the latest in New Jersey gambling news, Lindsay writes about law, politics, and writes fiction in her spare time. Her favorite slot machine is Kitty Glitter.

Here are my most recent posts

Why Do We Gamble? Dopamine.

Avatar July 17, 2015

At first glance, gambling is illogical. You’re spending money to play games or enter drawings that you know are stacked against you, often absurdly so. So why do we do it? Why do we buy lottery tickets, visit casinos, bet at the track and put money on our favorite sports teams?

Because of dopamine. Sweet, sweet dopamine, the human body’s most powerful drug.

What is Dopamine?

index Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that nerve cells release to send signals to other nerve cells. These signals can aid the body in determining how to react to stimuli. In plain English, dopamine is how certain nerves in your brain tell other nerves that what you’re doing feels good. When you experience a reward, like say, hitting the jackpot, the nerves in your brain release high levels of dopamine. This is that rush you feel when you win – it’s an organic high that, like the high from a synthetic drug, leaves your body wanting more when you come back down. So you buy another lottery ticket or pull the lever on the slot machine again, trying to recreate that win and feel that high again.

Gambling Addiction is Actually a Dopamine Addiction

Individuals who battle with compulsive gambling disorders are not necessarily addicted to the payouts or the act of playing. They’re addicted to the chemical that floods their brains when they play. The psychiatric community has only truly accepted that gambling addiction is akin to drug addiction within the past decade. In this time, some doctors and researchers have devoted their studies to learning more about how the brain becomes addicted to gambling, leading to the reclassification of gambling addiction from an impulse-control disorder to an addiction in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, which was published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association.

gambling+addiction+problemStudies have found that individuals who have dopamine imbalances, which causes them to experience lower responses to normal levels of dopamine release during these pleasurable moments, are more likely to develop a dependency on the neurotransmitter. This causes these individuals to display symptoms of an addictive personality. Basically, this means they have a high tolerance for dopamine, which causes them to need to gamble more to feel the same high that those with normal dopamine tolerance feel when gambling.

Although a dopamine imbalance is not a guarantee that an individual will develop a gambling addiction, it is certainly a factor that can play into one.

Seeking Help for a Gambling Addiction

1097_ga-1343448893Although biology can be to blame for a gambling addiction, this does not mean that an individual can’t cure his or her gambling addiction. There are various programs in place to help problem gamblers, such as the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ). Through this organization, you can find Gambler’s Anonymous meetings, which are meetings that work similarly to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and focus on making healthier choices to beat addiction.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need with your gambling addiction. If you have reached a point where you feel like you can’t climb out the hole you’ve gambled yourself into or that you can’t quit, no matter how much you recognize that you need to quit, call 1-800-GAMBLER to speak with a representative of the CCGNJ. You can find new ways to get your dopamine fix and liberate yourself from

Most New Jersey Residents Don’t Want a North Jersey Casino

Avatar June 29, 2015

Hardrock Meadowlands. Liberty Rising. ACR 300, the New Jersey Northern Casinos Amendment. If you’ve been following the latest New Jersey gambling news, you know that the reality of a casino in northern New Jersey is closer than ever. Even longtime opponents of the prospect of expanded casino gambling, including Governor Christie, are on board.

Rendering of Hard Rock Meadowlands
Rendering of Hard Rock Meadowlands

But what about the people? A recent Leigh Dickinson University Public Mind poll tells a drastically different story: most New Jersey voters do not want to expand casino gambling beyond Atlantic City. The poll found that of the voters surveyed, 56% oppose expanding gambling to other parts of the state while only 37% support such a measure. The same poll went on to ask respondents about how their gambling habits and thoughts would change if new casinos were to open outside of Atlantic City. 34% of respondents said that they would consider gambling at another casino, while 31% responded that they would continue to play in Atlantic City. 42% were in favor of any new casinos sharing their revenue with those in Atlantic City while 44% oppose this type of revenue sharing. Of the voters who said they would gamble outside Atlantic City, most said they would like to see a casino open in the Meadowlands. Monmouth Park was the second-most popular proposed destination, followed by Jersey City and Newark.

The People Haven’t Budged

The last time Fairleigh Dickinson surveyed the New Jersey public about casinos beyond Atlantic City, in February 2015, the response was more or less the same at this recent poll.

balsavimasAnd it’s the people whose opinions matter. As we discussed in a previous piece, it’s up to the state Senators to move ACR 300 through the Senate by August 3rd to have it on the general ballot this November. But once they’ve done their part, the bill’s fate is in the people’s hands. If New Jersey voters don’t want to expand casino gambling beyond Atlantic City, it doesn’t matter what our lawmakers want.

New Jersey Voters: A Tough Crowd for Casino Developers

Recent polls found that most New Jersey voters don’t want new casinos outside of Atlantic City. This isn’t completely surprising, knowing the history of voter response to legalized gambling in New Jersey over the years.

The initial version of the Casino Control Act, the act that eventually legalized casino gambling in New Jersey and built Atlantic City, was rejected by voters at first. Initially, it asked voters to approve of legalized casino gambling throughout New Jersey. Two years later, voters approved of a revised, stricter version of the Act.

In the decades since, more gambling advancements have been delayed and blocked by politicians’ interests and in some cases, the voters. Legalized sports betting was first introduced for New Jersey in 1993, but was killed before it could reach the people. Sports betting was finally legalized in 2011, with only 64% voter approval. Online gambling, the greatest advancement for New Jersey’s legal gambling marketplace since the first casinos opened in the 1970s, didn’t even have the chance for voter approval. It passed through legislature and was approved by Governor Christie in 2013. In a 2011 Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind poll, New Jersey voters were largely opposed to internet gambling (67%).

We’ll see what the voters think this November. As it stands, ACR 300 still has to pass in the Senate this summer. Then, it’s up to us to determine the next chapter for casino gambling in New Jersey.

Coming Soon: Hard Rock Casino Meadowlands?

Avatar June 15, 2015

It’s June. For lawmakers who want to have a referendum on the ballot this November, it’s time to scramble.

The deadline for the state legislature to submit public questions for the November ballot is August 3rd. If lawmakers like state Senator Raymond Lesniak and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney want to have us voting on whether casino operators may build and operate casinos outside of Atlantic City this Fall, they need to do one of two things by August 3rd:

  • Pass it with a supermajority (60% of the vote) within one legislative session

  • Pass it with a simple majority (50% or greater) in two legislative sessions

The ballot measure regarding the proposed development of up to three casinos in northern New Jersey is known as the New Jersey Northern Casinos Amendment (ACR 300). In its current form, it seeks to amend the Casino Control Act to allow for up to three casinos to be built in Bergen, Essex, and Hudson counties. An undisclosed portion of the revenue from these casinos would be used to fund Atlantic City’s continuing redevelopment. Even after years of unwavering support for keeping casino gambling contained to Atlantic City, Christie recently stated that he is in favor of the referendum.

Could the Age-old Debate be Reaching Its End?

The question of amending New Jersey’s Casino Control Act to allow for casinos to be built outside of Atlantic City has been a hot topic in recent years. When the Act was first signed into law, it specified that legal casino gambling in New Jersey could only happen within Atlantic City’s borders. This worked great at the time – Atlantic City became the East Coast’s gaming hot spot. Then casinos began to open in New York, Pennsylvania, and New England, drawing North Jersey gamblers and their money out of state.

With Atlantic City struggling to keep players in New Jersey, lawmakers proposed altering the law to allow casinos to operate in the state’s densely-populated northern half. Governor Christie and South Jersey lawmakers with an interest in Atlantic City’s future pushed hard against this, and in 2011, Christie signed a moratorium on any discussion of a casino outside of Atlantic City until 2016.

Despite this moratorium, legislators are talking. Governor Christie’s campaign to revitalize Atlantic City has been a flop. By the end of 2014, Christie was ready to discuss the possibility of a North Jersey casino with the state legislature. Currently, these are two likely players:

Hard Rock Meadowlands

Rendering of Hard Rock Meadowlands
Rendering of Hard Rock Meadowlands

Earlier this month, Hard Rock casino operators Jeff Gural and Jim Allen unveiled the concept art for their proposed new resort, Hard Rock Meadowlands, at the Bergen County Business Expo at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

At the event, Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, state Senators Loretta Weinberg, Raymond Lesniak, and Paul Sarlo, and Assemby Speaker Vincent Prieto gave their support for Hard Rock Meadowlands.

If ACR 300 is passed and the majority of New Jersey voters approve it next Fall, this could be the next casino to open in the Garden State. If all goes smoothly, Hard Rock’s representatives said it could be open and operating by Fall 2016.

A Casino for Jersey City

As we’ve discussed in an earlier article, Jersey City has been proposed as a home for New Jersey’s first casino outside of Atlantic City.

Jersey_City_from_a_helicopterThis project, currently known as “Liberty Rising,” is being kept under much tighter wraps than Hard Rock Meadowlands. Artistic renderings of the proposed resort exist, but have not yet been made available to the public. All we know right now is that this casino will likely be significantly larger than Hard Rock Meadowlands, rising to 95 stories and including much more than just a casino and hotel. Liberty Rising, which is being spearheaded by Reebok mogul Paul Fireman, would likely court a more affluent clientele than Hard Rock Meadowlands.

But Would the Voters Approve?

A recent poll showed that only 36% of New Jersey residents approve of expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City’s borders. Even if ACR 300 does make it to the November ballot, there’s no guarantee it will pass. First, it just has to make it through the state Senate.

Revel 2015: Just the Facts

Avatar June 5, 2015

We’ve all heard rumors about what’s going to happen to the resort structure that once housed Revel, the $2 billion luxury hotel and casino that was meant to modernize Atlantic City’s boardwalk and bring it back to life. Less than a year into its operation, Revel was plagued with financial troubles like unpaid city taxes and disputes with Unite Here! Local 54, Atlantic City’s casino workers union. The casino’s underwhelming revenues only made these troubles worse, forcing it to declare bankruptcy twice. By September 2014, the boardwalks’ savior was toast.

Revving the Rumor Engine

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Blood analysis would be one of the services offered at Straub’s luxury health spa

And that’s where the current crop of rumors started. A building like that couldn’t just be left to slowly decay. Bloggers throughout New Jersey began to speculate about Revel’s future. By now, you’ve heard it all about what’s next for Revel. You’ve heard about it becoming a world-class university, reopening as another shot at the exact same thing, and becoming a clone of the Great Wolf Lodge in an attempt to court families, complete with a high-speed ferry from Manhattan. The possibility of creating a high-tech luxury health spa within Revel has also appeared on the internet, attributed to Straub himself. Such a spa would offer new age treatments and supplements like blood analysis and plasma grafts, tapping into a market previously unseen in Atlantic City.

The truth is, these are all speculations. Over the past nine months, Revel’s story has been clouded by speculations, assumptions, and court battles regarding its new ownership. As of right now, here are the facts about what’s going on with Revel:

There’s a Literal Power Struggle Happening

The electrical equipment inside Revel belongs to the building’s original power supplier, ACR Energy Suppliers. After a fee dispute with Straub, the energy company cut the building’s power, prompting the city to fine Straub $5,000 per day for every day Revel went without electricity. Having a building of that size without electricity is a fire hazard because in the event of a fire, the alarm system would not sound and any individuals inside would be in danger. In April, Straub reached an agreement with ACR to have the power restored for the next two weeks for $262,000.

straubStraub planned to find an alternate power source for the resort, but was unable to do so by the end of May. Currently, ACR continues to power the building. This is partially due to ACR blocking Straub from actually hooking into an alternate power source because of fears of this new power source damaging ACR’s millions of dollars’ worth of equipment inside Revel. Part of the court battle has been over these fixtures’ ownership. Attorneys for Polo North, Straub’s company, claim that they purchased the fixtures with the building. This is in line with New Jersey’s state laws. However, ACR claims this is not the case and that its electrical fixtures, including wire cabinets and power substations throughout the property, are its own and touching them without authorization is akin to trespassing.

And Revel Can’t Open without an Electric Plan

Straub had wanted to source energy from the former Showboat building, currently owned by Stockton University, which is under contract for him to purchase as well. However, without a technical plan in place for hooking into an electrical source, contractors can not move forward with Revel’s redevelopment. Another plan Straub has mentioned in the press is hooking the resort into the Atlantic City Electric grid. This, too, has not moved forward, leaving the building currently without a power plan.

Revel will Not Reopen for Summer 2015

The soonest Revel may reopen, Straub’s company reports, is November 2015. Missing a summer at the Jersey Shore means missing a substantial profit opportunity, but if the renovations will take that long, there really isn’t much he can do.

But this is one fact we know for sure. Revel will not be open this summer, leaving the north end of Atlantic City’s boardwalk a construction zone for now.

StraubConstruction

Gambling Problem? The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey’s Got Your Back

Avatar May 23, 2015
Neva Pryor, MS
Neva Pryor, MS

Earlier this month, Neva Pryor was named the next executive director of The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ), the premier nonprofit organization that works to prevent and remedy problem gambling in New Jersey. You know that line at the end of every casino and lottery commercial that comes on the radio? “Gambling Problem? Call 1-800 Gambler.” That’s their hotline.

Pryor is well suited to working with gambling addicts and organizing prevention and help programs for those struggling with this type of addiction. Before she became the executive director of the CCGNJ, she served as the gambling supervisor for the Office of Addiction Services of Philadelphia. She also operates a private therapy practice where she works with patients dealing with addiction problems.

Gambling addiction is a serious social issue. Just like other addictions, including alcohol, drug, pornography, and even shopping addictions, gambling addiction destroys relationships and lives throughout New Jersey and the world.

When Gambling Becomes a Problem

gambling-addictionWhen an individual can not stop him or herself from engaging in gambling behavior, he or she is exhibiting signs of what the American Psychiatric Association has labeled “pathological gambling.” Pathological gambling, also sometimes known as compulsive gambling, is a clinical disorder that can be treated with therapy. An estimated 1% of American adults suffer from gambling addictions.

Some indications that an individual could be struggling with a gambling addiction include the following:

  • He or she spends time away from work or family to gamble.
  • He or she borrows or steals money from others to gamble.
  • He or she lies about his or her gambling or its extent.
  • Attempting to escape one’s problems through gambling.
  • Denying that he or she has a gambling problem.
  • Taking larger, more frequent risks than he or she can afford while gambling. This is because of the thrill that the individual gets from making wagers – like the high that comes from controlled substances, the rush of gambling gradually requires higher and higher “doses” to be sufficient.

If somebody you know exhibits any of the above behaviors, talk to him or her. Be a friend and let him or her know that you are concerned about their gambling habits and that you want to help. When these behaviors go unaddressed, the individual runs the risk of sinking further into his or her addiction. Once an individual’s gambling reaches the point that it affects his or her relationships with family, friends, work, and/or school, it’s time for serious help.

Know When to Stop Before You Start

You’ve seen this slogan inside physical casinos and on gaming websites before. It’s the corporate program Caesar’s Entertainment has in place to promote responsible gambling, starting with its employees. Other companies have similar programs and slogans in place.

Making responsible gambling choices is much easier when you have a plan in place. Before you even get to the casino or open your browser, know how much you plan to spend and stick to it. This is easy when you’re playing in a physical casino – simply bring cash and if you run out, you’re done playing. Have your friends hold you accountable for this and hold them accountable as well. With an online casino, follow a similar principle: deposit one sum of money and, no matter how you’re doing, do not add more during your gaming session. Some websites have settings you can check to prevent you from depositing more than a specified amount of money.

If You or a Loved One have a Gambling Problem

The CCGNJ has programs in place that can help. Call 1-800-GAMBLER at any time to speak with a representative for the CCGNJ. The Council has multiple treatment options, each geared toward specific communities and their needs. For example, you can reach out to find a Gamblers Anonymous group near you or set up an appointment with an individual therapist. There is information available in Spanish as well as English and specific information about the issues women, adolescent, and senior gamblers face.

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Individual-CounselingDo not wait to reach out for help. Gambling addiction can be cured. Sometimes, working with a therapist either alone or as part of a group is the key to curing a gambler’s addiction. For others, it is easier to remove the temptation and focus on healthier means to stress reduction. Technology makes it easy for these individuals to stay away from New Jersey’s gambling websites. Players can lock themselves out of websites during certain time blocks, after logging a specified number of hours on the site, or limit the amount of money they may spend on the website. These options are available at the website operator’s discretion. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) also gives players the opportunity to limit their gambling through its Self-Exclusion program. With this program, individuals can have themselves barred from gambling websites and physical casinos for one year, five year, and lifetime periods.

Responsible gambling can be a lot of fun. Taking a small amount of money and possibly turning it into a huge payout through a game is, for many Americans, an exciting way to spend some free time. When you find yourself feeling like you “need” to gamble, stop. When you lose control of your gambling, you are no longer playing responsibly.

Gender Differences in Gambling Explained

Avatar May 15, 2015

As we touched on briefly in a previous piece, men and women gamble differently. Men are more likely to seek out games that require some skill to win, like poker and blackjack. Women, on the other hand, tend to prefer games that are more random in nature, like bingo and slot machines.

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This comes from more than just anecdotal evidence. With data collected through the use of the Iowa Gambling Task, one of the most popular ways to gauge risk-taking preferences and patterns, researchers have been able to look more closely at the patterns men and women follow when playing luck-based games and determine not only which gender takes more risks, but which gender bets more per round and is more likely to stop playing after a winning or losing streak.

Who Gambles More?

Men. Gambling and other risk-taking behaviors are positively correlated with testosterone, which is far more prevalent in males than in females. This is likely why gambling was previously considered to be an all-male pastime and today, continues to be dominated by men. Men begin gambling earlier in life than women begin, the average man starting to gamble in his teens and the average woman starting in her mid to late twenties, and men tend to place larger bets when they play.

The Iowa Gambling Task

The Iowa Gambling Task is a gaming simulation that is used to measure participants’ decision-making processes and abilities.

The task shows participants four virtual decks of playing cards on a computer screen. Participants are told that every card they choose will win them money. However, some of the cards also cause the player to lose money, canceling out the monetary reward. Some decks are designed to have the participant draw a lot of these cards, losing money in the long run while others, the “winning decks,” have the participant come out ahead at the end of the exercise.

One of the main uses for this simulation is to determine problem gamblers, especially those who suffer from orbiofrontal cortex dysfunction, a condition that affects the ability to make rational decisions. Generally, individuals without this dysfunction quickly recognize the winning decks and continue to draw from them. Individuals with orbiofrontal cortex dysfunction or other conditions that lead to problem gambling do not, picking losing decks again and again with the hope that the next card drawn will be a big winner, making up for their previous losses.

Orbitofrontal

But this task can also be used to measure the different choices that people in various groups tend to make, such as measuring how men gamble versus women, how older individuals gamble when compared to younger participants, and how individuals with low incomes play when compared with their higher-income peers.

The Gendered History of Gambling

ratbaiting
Rat baiting, a popular bloodsport during the Victorian era

Traditionally, gambling was a male pastime, most likely because of men’s preference for risk-taking activities. One of the earliest examples of gambling in human culture is cockfighting in ancient Egypt. This was actually why the chicken was first domesticated – to entertain paying crowds in fights to the death, rather than as a food animal.

Later in history, gambling took the form of poker games and other games of chance in pubs. England’s pubs, the home of a wide variety of games from cribbage to rat baiting to darts, were a strictly male domain. Similarly, few women would visit early racetracks and put money on the horses, further cementing gambling as a men’s activity.

The Rise of the Female Gambler

It wasn’t until the advent of lotteries and casinos that women began to get in on the action. This is for a few reasons.

One of the main reasons is the rise of feminism and greater economic freedom for women in the twentieth century. Another was the type of games offered. As gambling moved out of the pubs and pool halls and into community venues and homes, women began to partake in greater and greater numbers. With the advent of online gambling, women have become even more likely to participate in games of chance. Today, women have more disposable income than they have at any previous point in America’s history and control more than 80% of household spending in the United States. Female gamblers are here and as their influence grows, gaming companies are adapting to their needs and preferences.

 

In New Jersey, Online Gambing is Here to Stay

Avatar May 2, 2015

dge-logo-170 This April, bwin.com and Sportech, PLC became the first two companies to receive Casino Service Industry Enterprise licenses (CSIEs) from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. This is a huge milestone for the New Jersey online gambling industry because it marks the end of these companies’ provisional era.

When the New Jersey online gaming marketplace first opened in 2013, all companies who met the Division’s requirements to operate received transactional waivers. A transactional waiver is a preliminary approval from the Division to operate as a casino or gambling-related business in New Jersey. When a company holds a transactional waiver, it operates under the supervision of the Division to ensure its suitability to be continue to operate within the New Jersey casino industry.

Now, bwin.com and Sportech are ready to take off the training wheels and operate independently in New Jersey.

bwin_logobwin.com

bwin.com is one of New Jersey’s original online gaming providers. It is the software company behind BorgataCasino.com, BorgataPoker.com, and Nj.partypoker.com. The company is based in Gibraltar and has operated gambling websites since 1997. Upon receiving the CSIE from New Jersey, CEO Norbert Teufelberger made the following statement in a press release:

Receipt of our full license in New Jersey marks an important milestone for our US business. We believe that the path to regulation across the United States is inevitable and expect that other states will soon follow.

Recognized as being the best poker software supplier and for providing the operating platform behind the best mobile gaming product (poker and casino) as well as the operator of the year in New Jersey, together with our partners, we are focused on delivering a safe and secure real money gaming experience for adults wishing to play games using mobile, touch and desktop channels.

We have a demanding delivery pipeline which will provide our customers with further exciting content throughout 2015”

sportech_19Sportech

Sportech is another European player in the New Jersey market. Sportech’s story is a little bit different than bwin.com’s and other companies. Sportech has been operating in New Jersey since 2011, when it began as a payment processing site for the state’s off-track betting parlors and offered advanced deposit wagering. It’s a big operation – a recent report showed that Sportech’s New Jersey division processes more than $11 billion in wagers every year.

Like bwin’s CEO, Sportech CEO Ian Penrose discussed the honor of receiving a CSIE in a press release shortly after the company received it. He noted that Sportech was the first European online gaming company to receive this license to operate in New Jersey.

Other Potential CSIE Recipients

When you operate an online casino in New Jersey, the goal is to eventually receive a Casino Service Industry Enterprise license.

Some companies that could receive this license in the future include:

  • Gamesys, the company that works with Tropicana
  • 888 Holdings, which is partnered with Caesar’s Entertainment
  • Betfair, which operates the Golden Nugget’s online casino
  • Bally Technologies, another partner of the Golden Nugget’s

The process for being issued a Casino Service Industry Enterprise license is long and complicated. Applicants must first pay a $5000 application fee, which covers 333 hours of investigation from the Division of Gaming Enforcement. If necessary, the applicant may be required to pay for another 333 hours of investigation, up to 1,000 hours total. If the Division needs to spend more than 1,000 hours determining whether the applicant meets its regulations to hold a CSIE, the applicant is billed by the hour.

During the investigation, the applicant must complete a Business Entity Disclosure Form – Gaming. In this document, the applicant must detail the entirety of the company’s financial holdings, expenses, and debts.

These licenses are valid for three years.

Legitimacy for Online Gambling in New Jersey

Companies like bwin.com and Sportech getting their CSIEs is a monumental step for online gambling in New Jersey. Just like the first casinos receiving theirs in the 1970s ushered in a new phase for Atlantic City, these companies are ushering a new age for internet gambling.

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At first, online gambling in New Jersey appeared to be off to a rocky start. It faltered and drew initially dismal profits, but the high-performing players kept playing. After a few gaming companies backed out, the success stories kept at it. Now, 2015 is poised to be the comeback year for online gaming in the Garden State.

Bwin and Sportech are hardly bit players. They’re long-term success stories and it makes sense that they are the first companies to receive CSIEs from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. As more companies receive theirs, online gambling will undoubtedly become more and more mainstream in New Jersey, offering players just another place to place their bets.

An Update on the Stoboat Debacle

Avatar April 24, 2015

An Update on the Stoboat Debacle

TajShoboatIn a previous piece, we discussed the current state of affairs regarding Stockton University’s purchase of the former Showboat property. The university’s plan for the property was to develop it into a satellite campus, complete with student housing, classroom space, and areas for student performances as well as an operational hotel and resort for paying guests. The project was slated to be complete by the summer of 2015 and ready to open as a fully functional campus by the fall. However, the university and its president, Herman Saatkamp, faced one huge snag: a 1988 covenant made between Caesar’s Entertainment, Trump Entertainment Resorts, and Resorts Casino Hotel that required all three properties only be operated as first-class casino resorts. Trump Entertainment Resorts opted to uphold this covenant, blocking Stockton from pursuing its plan.

All seemed lost. Then, casino tycoon and recent buyer of Revel, Glen Straub, stepped in and offered to purchase the property from Stockton in the event it could not resolve its issue with Trump Entertainment Resorts. Well, it looks like Straub is going to be the Showboat’s new owner.

Trump Hasn’t Won – Yet

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Stockton president Herman Saatkamp

Amid the controversy, Stockton’s president announced that he will be stepping down from his post on or after August 31st.

When Caesar’s sold the property to Stockton College, it specified that the property not be used as a casino. Now the case needs to be examined further to determine whether this is legally enforceable as Trump Entertainment Resorts refuses to budge regarding the 1988 covenant. As it turns out, the purchase’s information was never submitted to the state Comptroller’s office. University purchases of $10 million or more are required to be reviewed by the state Comptroller to ensure that they comply with state and federal laws and regulations. Now, the office must review the purchase to determine whether or not the covenant may be upheld.

Stockton University has until July 3rd to back out of its agreement with Straub. Unless the involved parties can work out a plan for the property, the case will go to court. We will keep updating this story as it develops.

Online Bingo: New Jersey’s Next Internet Gambling Craze?

Avatar April 20, 2015

This year, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission began granting operating licenses to websites offering bingo games.

The first company to take the state up on this offer was Virgin Casino, a UK-based online gaming company that partnered with Tropicana Atlantic City to provide the real-money games to New Jersey players.

The games will be offered every day from 10 AM to 11 PM EST. In a press release, Tropicana stated that it will pay out $90,000 in bonus money prizes to bingo players every month. In addition to the games that require a deposit and pay out real money, Tropicana is also offering a free version at free90ballbingo.com.

Bingo Games Offered

Bingo games come in many formats. Currently, Virgin Casino is offering 90 ball bingo games to New Jersey players. This bingo format differs from the format that most Americans are familiar with playing, which is used for 75 ball bingo. The 90 ball bingo format is popular with players in the United Kingdom.

90-ball-bingo 90 Ball Bingo

90 ball bingo games are popular online, but less so in physical bingo rooms. On the cards used for 90 ball bingo games, there are nine columns and three rows that intersect. There are three stages to every game: one line, two line, and full house.

Other types of bingo that may be offered in the future include 80 ball bingo and the well-known 75 ball bingo.

75 Ball Bingo

75-ball-bingo-card75 ball bingo is the most popular type of bingo game in the United States. This format has the traditional board set up with five columns in a grid formation with five rows across. The square in the middle of the board is generally reserved as the free space. Many different bingo games can be played on this board, including the traditional version where a player must get five matches in a row in any direction.

  • Round robin: In this format, the player must match all the numbers around the perimeter of his or her board, creating a border.

  • Block of nine: In a block of nine bingo game, the player must match any nine numbers arranged in a block of three rows of three numbers each anywhere on the board. The result is a solid block of numbers marked off.

  • Four corners: In four corners bingo, a player must mark off the four corner boxes on his or her board to win.

80 Ball Bingo

The type of board on which 80 ball bingo is played is slightly smaller than the one used for 75 ball bingo games. It has a total of sixteen squares in a four column by four row pattern. This makes for a more rapidly paced bingo game.

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The History of Online Bingo Games

Online bingo has been popular with gamblers in the United States, United Kingdom, and throughout the world since 1996. Because of restrictions against playing for real money online, these games were free to play and winners were awarded with tokens or points. Some popular early online bingo sites were Bingo Zone and Bingo Blitz, the latter of which can now be played on Facebook.

Concerns of Cannibalizing Brick and Mortar Bingo Games

Bingo is a very popular way for churches and other charitable organizations like the Knights of Columbus and The Elks to raise money. Some critics have expressed concern that allowing real money bingo games to be played online could hurt turnout at physical bingo games.

This argument is not unlike the concern that internet gambling would destroy traditional casino gambling that first arose when New Jersey’s first online casinos opened. As we saw over the next year, profits at both physical and online casinos lagged. By the end of the year, online gambling revenue was up again while brick and mortar casinos continued to perform poorly. Time will only tell if online bingo will affect traditional bingo halls in New Jersey, but there’s one thing bingo halls have that casinos do not: a sense of community. Casinos are spacious, noisy, and located in destination centers like Atlantic City and the Poconos. Bingo games happen in churches and community centers where a regular player might see her neighbors and friends every week for years. In this type of setting, there’s a closeness that no website can replicate.

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Attracting Women to Online Gambling

Gender plays an interesting role in our gambling habits. Traditionally, card games like poker and blackjack were played in taverns, which were almost exclusively filled with men. This also went for betting on horse races, another older form of gambling.

By the time games like bingo and the lottery became mainstream in America, women and men enjoyed similar levels of social freedom. Games that require some use of skill and strategy like poker tend to attract men, while purely chance-based activities like slots and bingo tend to be more popular with women. One hypothesis about this latter fact is that women prefer games and activities that easily lend themselves to socializing and the sharing of mutual interests. When you’re sitting at a slot machine in a long row or gathered in a bingo hall, it’s easy to strike up conversation with your neighbor and express excitement when he or she wins.

Online casino operators are hoping to cash in on the relative lack of female internet gamblers by offering bingo games. The bingo games for points and credit that have been available for years are more popular with women than with men, which should be a good sign for companies wanting to get in on the opportunity to provide online bingo games in New Jersey.

Stockton’s Proposed Island Campus is in Limbo

Avatar April 10, 2015

In late 2014, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey purchased the buildings that once housed the Showboat Hotel and Casino Resort, which operated from 1987 to 2014, with the intention of using them to create a satellite campus in Atlantic City to serve more students. After lagging profits, the Showboat closed for good on August 31, 2014.

ShowboatBut Stockton’s plans for its Island Campus, the proposed name for the satellite campus, are halted for now. The project was initially set to be complete by late spring 2015 and acting as a secondary campus by fall 2015, but thanks to a twenty-six-year-old agreement between Caesar’s Entertainment, Resorts Casino Hotel, and Trump Entertainment Resorts, Stockton might need to scrap its plans.

Stockton’s Plan for Expansion

The Stockton-Island Campus is the college’s seventh attempt to expand into Atlantic City under current president Herman Saatkamp. The college, which recently became a university, currently serves just over seven thousand students and is growing rapidly. The institution seeks to further its position as a driving educational and economic force in southern New Jersey by being part of Atlantic City’s revitalization efforts.

Purchasing old hotels and turning them into functional campus properties is nothing new for Stockton University. In 2010, the college purchased the Seaview Resort, a century-old hotel, spa, and golf resort in Galloway Township, New Jersey. Today, part of the hotel is used to house upperclassman students while the rest of the resort is used by the university’s hospitality management program to provide students with a hands-on learning experience in their chosen field.

The Expansion Goals

StocktonIslandIn December 2014, Stockton purchased the Showboat for $18 million, a fraction of what the resort was appraised for in 2013. The plan is to convert the gambling floors into academic spaces, creating classrooms, lecture halls, and music studios. Tower 2 and Tower 3 would provide 852 dormitory rooms for students while Tower 1 remains available for paying guests. The dining and recreation areas would be taken over by the campus and used to meet students’ needs. This plan would effectively double the number of students Stockton could serve. Proponents of this plan point toward the effect Columbia University had on Morningside Heights in Manhattan and the positive changes Rutgers University has brought to New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden.

Not everybody was on board with this plan. Some students called the purchase a waste of funding that could have been better spent on the main campus to improve its facilities. Parents of students spoke out against the hotel deal as well, citing safety concerns for students rooming in the former hotel.

The Purchase

Another group was unhappy with the purchase as well. That group was Trump Entertainment Resorts, the owner and operator of Trump Taj Mahal. In fact, Trump Entertainment Resorts was more than unhappy about the deal – it was ready to take legal action against Stockton University. In 1988, Trump signed a covenant with Caesar’s Entertainment, the parent company behind the Showboat, and Resorts Casino Hotel that required that the three properties only ever operate as first-class casinos and hotels. To facilitate this partnership, the three resorts were connected by enclosed skywalks.

TajShoboatA college campus is not a first-class casino resort. Not even close. Creating one in the Showboat’s former buildings would be a violation of the covenant. The college was aware of this and in December, Caesar’s Entertainment asked Trump Entertainment Resorts to waive the covenant so Stockton could proceed with the purchase and development of the resort. Trump Entertainment Resorts, then going through its own issues with the Taj Mahal’s bankruptcy and potential reorganization, chose not to waive the covenant. Its representative made the following statement to the press, which is available to read in full on its website:

“We advised that because the Taj is in bankruptcy, as a matter of our fiduciary responsibilities to our creditors, we could not waive our valuable rights under this covenant without obtaining bankruptcy court approval and without receiving appropriate consideration. We were not offered any consideration for this waiver.”

ZAK_9105Trump Taj Mahal’s website states concerns about the potential legal issues that could arise with underage students living next door. It also noted the negative effect that the campus could have on its own bottom line, claiming that it would deter potential Taj Mahal visitors.

Stockton and Caesar’s went ahead with the sale anyway. Now, Stockton can not move forward with the resorts’ development until it works out all the legal issues it faces from Trump Entertainment Resorts. To be ready for a Fall 2015 opening, contracts regarding the property and its administration must be signed by April 12th.

A Potential Sale, But Not a Total Loss

If it can not complete the process this month, Stockton University’s president Saatkamp stated that the university will sell the property because it can not afford to hold on to it for another year and attempt to open it for Fall 2016. If this is the case, the university has a buyer lined up.

straubThat buyer is Glenn Straub, owner of Polo North, Inc., a Florida-based development company. Straub purchased Revel earlier this year and plans to develop it into a megaresort with a second hotel tower and indoor water park.

Straub promised to purchase the Showboat property for $26 million if Stockton can not reach a settlement to move forward with the property’s development. This money was placed in escrow for ninety days. If Stockton does end up selling the property to Straub, it stands to approximately break even on the deal. Although the university purchased the property for only $18 million, it has since invested money in developing a plan and building its legal strategy to work out the issues with the covenant.

Save Our Stoboat

Stockton students want to see their university grow and take advantage of all that the satellite campus could offer. Earlier this month, a group of Stockton students and members of the Local 54 of Atlantic City marched from the Showboat to Trump Taj Mahal, protesting Trump Entertainment Resorts’ attempts to block Stockton’s development of the Showboat property. The protest was named “Save Our Stoboat,” a portmanteau of Stockton and Showboat.

Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian stands with the university, stating the benefits that the college would have on the neighborhood and the city’s residents.

And it would have many benefits. Getting more year-round residents into the city to make use of local businesses and diversify the city’s demographics can only bring positive changes. Stockton University is growing rapidly and if it does not expand into Atlantic City, it will take its economic boosts elsewhere. Missing out on the Stockton-Island Campus would be a bad move for Atlantic City and just another hurdle for its recovery.

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