In news from Atlantic City, New Jersey we’ll explore a potential new 5-year authorization to continue online gambling at casinos located in the seaside resort city on the Jersey Shore.
We’ll take a look at a 20-years-young casino that has consistently led the market in footfall and table-take, internet gaming, and innovation. And finally, we’ll check in on The Showboat, a former casino slated to become the world’s largest beachside indoor waterpark. Bill Blatstein’s Island Waterpark was slated to open 4th of July weekend but the opening was pushed back at least a week due to a delay in permits for the rides there.
Lawmakers Consider 5-Year Extension of Atlantic City iGaming
Nobody is quite sure why lawmakers in New Jersey recently shortened the time they are extending online gambling in the state from 10 years to only 5 years – cutting in half operators’ ability to secure long-term financing, establish profitable business plans, or borrow against potential future earnings to expand offerings.
The move was made by amendment without public debate or prior announcement last Tuesday. It cut initially cut the timeline to 2 years in what was seen by some as posturing to show who holds the purse strings when it comes time to decide who pays how much in taxes to the state. The current authorization is set to expire this year. No final vote has been held yet on the 2-year, five-year, or 10-year extension.
Internet gambling taxes are currently the highest among the three sectors at 15% while sportsbetting venues pay 13%, and in-person or brick-and-mortar casinos pay just 8% on the money they win from players.
Don Guardian, a former mayor of Atlantic City and current Assemblyman said, “We’re all trying to figure out what happened,” according to a report in the Associated Press.
A 10-year extension as originally provided for in the bill is ”crucial” to the casinos’ ongoing successful operations according to Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts Casino as well as the Casino Association of New Jersey.
“The reauthorization of the internet gaming bill for 10 years is vital to the continued success of the gaming industry in New Jersey and the programs that are supported by the taxes collected,” he said.
Assemblyman Guardian cautioned that the shortened time frame could devastate the metric of commercial gambling in the city where online operators lead the six states that currently offer regulated online casino gaming. Rhode Island lawmakers recently authorized online casino gambling but those casinos, to be operated by Bally’s and IGT, are not expected to come online until early 2024.
Guardian said, “No one is going to invest money in a company that has (a brand) if you only have two more years. Those things < establishing an online identity and recognition>cost money. This has been what’s helping keep Atlantic City alive.”
Gamblers at Atlantic City’s online casinos have left over $6 billion in the virtual machines and on the tables since providers in the state started taking internet bets in November 2013. This, is according to the American Gaming Association, the national trade and lobbying organization that represents America’s comercial casino industry. The number is counted separately from New Jersey online sports betting operators’ revenues.
Online gaming revenues are credited with helping their land-based counterparts survive the Covid-19 shutdowns at the start of the world health emergency when physical doors were shut for more than a quarter of 2020. They also helped the books heal as many gamblers stayed away soon after the doors re-opened, wary of exposure.
Borgata Marks Two Decades as Game Changer
Twenty years ago, MGM Mirage and Boyd Gaming joined forces under the leadership of former Borgata CEO Bob Boughner and marshaled resources and a new commitment to the Marina District when others were pulling back or even pulling out – the extraordinary investments and follow-through on a commitment set the stage for the iconic hotel and casino to rise above the fray and start a winning streak that continues today. Even as losers and also-rans pulled out, the Borgata dug deeper and dug in to stay.
According to an article in the Press of Atlantic City: “In line with trends happening in Las Vegas, the Borgata Casino & Spa featured high-end design features in the hotel rooms, on the casino floor, and in its restaurants and nightclubs that were superior to what was available at the other casino hotels in Atlantic City at the time,” faculty director for Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism, School of Business, Jane Bokunewicz said.
According to Bokunewics, Borgata set a high bar and established itself as a top-tier destination on par with the better properties in Las Vegas and this either forced or inspired other operators to “keep up with the Joneses” in terms of quality which established Atlantic City as a premiere destination resort city.
The Borgata, as it was known then, after all, was designed to appeal to a luxury-minded segment of the potential customer base with sleek and modern room designs, upscale marble showers, celebrity chef restaurants, vaulted ceilings above the casino floor, and exciting bars and nightclubs. Some other operators were able to pull it off and others failed or gave up while others around them were making money from their investments.
More than 800 day-one employees and workers who moved up into management are still working there. Most were on hand over the weekend to take part in festivities as part f the resort’s summer=long “birthday bash” that included a 1,000-foot “light show” featuring 500 lighted drones.
Borgata Celebrates 20th Birthday
The Press of Atlantic City, July 1, 2023
Island Waterpark at Showboat Resort
World’s Biggest Indoor Beachside Waterpark Opening Delayed
Those who came to Atlantic City for 4th of July Weekend celebrations and expected to be among the first to visit Island Waterpark will go home disappointed in that respect unless they stick around until at least the following weekend beginning on July 7th.
Showboat developer Bart Blatstein is now saying that the 100,000-square-foot attraction will not open before then.
In a prepared statement, Blatstein said, “You only have one chance to make a first impression. This is the world’s largest indoor beachfront waterpark and a destination that will last many decades, so I want to ensure everything is perfect.”
Multiple media reports are saying it was a delay in permits for some of the rides that caused the delay rather than some loose ends or aesthetics that weren’t ready yet.
New Jersey state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) spokeswoman Lisa Ryan said in a statement found at Press of Atlantic City: “The Island Waterpark at Showboat rides are currently in the approval process. DCA is working in cooperation with the waterpark owner to ensure the ride documentation submittal, review, and approval process is followed and completed.”
Marty Small, Atlantic City’s Mayor noted that a few “technical issues” need to be cleared up.
“We’d rather be a million percent sure,” Small said, according to the Philidelphia Inquirer. “The bottom line is, we’ve had dreams of a waterpark in the great city of Atlantic City fail multiple times. People doubted Bart Blatstein. The waterpark is beautiful.”
According to digital literature and earlier media report, the $100 million Jersey Shore seaside attraction will feature three head-first slides; tube slides, a 1,000-square-foot surf simulator; a 6,500-square-foot lazy river; five waterslides for younger children at the park’s Slide Island, and a kid’s area called Kids Cove.
But it’s not all “kids’ stuff” at Island Waterpark. There will also be plenty for adults to do
“ After dark” including with six bars featuring craft beer, wine, and cocktails; Paradise Adult Island, a 10,000-square-foot entertainment and relaxation space overlooking the ocean and waterpark with live DJs; and Bliss Pool featuring a swim-up bar reserved for adults only.
Nor is the price easy on the wallet to visit this one-of-a-kind AC wonder with adult tickets (VIP) running $119 for all access and regular daytime entry costing $89. Those who visit between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. can get a discount with a $69 entry ticket.
Source: Atlantic City indoor waterpark opening postponed over incomplete permits, Philly Voice, July 1, 2023