Wayne Barry The Associated Press
Atlantic City, NJ – With sports betting spreading across the country as states, casinos, and consumers eagerly embrace the new gambling market, online casino games have grown much more slowly.
Participants at a major casino conference on Friday said that the online casino market has huge potential for growth and expansion.
Speaking at the East Coast Gaming Conference, executives of online gambling companies and their technology partners said that the rapid growth of sports betting has provided a ready infrastructure and regulatory apparatus for online casino gaming.
To date, such gambling is legal in only six states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut.
But committee members at the conference predicted that three or four additional states might soon embrace online gambling, including Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and New York.
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In addition, more than a dozen states sell lottery tickets online, according to James Carey, CEO of the New Jersey Lottery.
“I am confident there is plenty of room for growth,” said Jeffrey Millar, commercial director of North American operations for Evolution, an online casino content company.
“Growth in this industry is still in its infancy in the United States,” added David Ryback, New Jersey’s largest gambling regulator as director of the state’s gaming enforcement division.
Richard Schwartz, CEO of Chicago-based online gaming company Rush Street Interactive, said countries that already have legal sports betting are strong candidates to adopt online casino games as well.
“They already have regulatory bodies,” he said. “They have servers in place. It’s faster to start adding a casino.”
Currently, 31 states as well as Washington DC offer legal sports betting, and many are expected to do so soon.
Since launching online gambling nine years ago, New Jersey casinos have earned $4.79 billion from online gamblers, according to the Gaming Association of America, the national casino industry trade group. That’s nearly double what Pennsylvania casinos have won $2.47 billion online since July 2019.
Michigan has won $2 billion online since January 2021; Connecticut $199.7 million since October 2021; West Virginia $137.4 million since July 2020; and Delaware $42.2 million since December 2013. Nevada offers online poker but does not separate this revenue separately from the state’s in-person casino earnings report.
These numbers are for online casino games only, and do not include sports betting revenue, which is reported separately.
New Jersey is about to extend its law allowing online gambling for another 10 years, and during the opening session of the casino conference Thursday, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy pledged to sign the bill if it passes.
A 2018 US Supreme Court ruling in a New Jersey case paved the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting if they choose to do so. With this rapid expansion came an expectation in some quarters that online gambling would almost automatically grow at a similar rapid pace.
“It didn’t happen,” said Howard Glaser, head of government affairs and legislative advisor at Laught & Wonder, the company that succeeded scientific games company Scientific Games.
He said there were persistent concerns, particularly among some state legislators, that online gambling could dislodge revenue and customers from traditional casinos – although the gambling industry itself has proven that this has not been the case.
Casinos initially had the same concerns when New Jersey launched online gambling in November 2013. Louisa Woods is Vice President of Delaware North, the gambling, hospitality and sports company that owns casinos in New York, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, West Virginia and Ohio.
She was previously the COO of Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City in 2013.
“My first job was to sell the company I’m not here to compete with yours; I’m here to help it grow,” she said. “We integrated the brand, created loyalty accounts for every single remote customer. We had people showing up at the property for the first time and we already had a dedicated host.”