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The bill, A2811, passed the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee on Thursday by a 6-0 vote. A2811 is sponsored by Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, who chairs the committee.
Caputo is an interesting voice to be leading on this issue, as the Essex assemblyman is historically opposed to online gambling; Caputo was one of five assembly members who voted against online gambling legalization back in 2013.
Caputo is also on record as vehemently against PokerStars, and as such tried to pass a bill in December 2014 that would have dealt with what he believes to be lax licensing requirements for online gaming platform providers.
Caputo sees his current bill as a way to promote visitation to Atlantic City and its remaining casinos.
“We should use every opportunity available to promote the casinos still standing and remind potential customers that there is still plenty to see and do in Atlantic City,” the Press of Atlantic City quoted Caputo as saying.
Beyond this, Caputo’s bill could have some other, unintended benefits.
With seven casinos hosting a total of 19 unique online gaming sites, Caputo’s bill could help clear up any uncertainty as to which online gambling sites are associated with which Atlantic City casinos.
For instance, while it may be clear which brick and mortar casinos GoldenNuggetCasino.com and HarrahsCasino.com are affiliated with, it’s less clear which casino operates WSOP.com, and even less clear which land-based casino is affiliated with VirginCasino.com, PalaBingoUSA.com, PokerStarsNJ.com, or BetfairCasino.com.
Caputo’s bill would eradicate any confusion on this front.
Caputo’s bill would also help differentiate licensed online gaming sites in New Jersey from any unlicensed online gaming sites still operating in the Garden State.
New Jersey’s licensed online gaming sites have had difficulties drawing this distinction since they launched in November 2013.
To help on this front, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement added an official seal to all licensed websites in September 2015.
Furthermore, the sites themselves have done a much better job of prominently displaying their licensure and legality.
Adding a known brick and mortar brand to all online gaming sites and advertising would make an unlicensed site even more conspicuous, as it would now lack an official seal from the New Jersey DGE, as well as the requisite brick and mortar casino brand on its website and in any marketing.
Another potential benefit Caputo’s bill could bring about is improved communication between a casino’s brick and mortar and online operations.
There is plenty of evidence that the right hand may not always know (or care) what the left hand is doing when it comes to the city’s casinos and their online gaming divisions. This isn’t because of subterfuge or because there is anything nefarious afoot; it’s simply a matter of priorities.
The revenue from online gaming is somewhat trivial to many of the city’s land-based casinos, and it’s doubtful that top level executives give much thought to online gaming when they have a brick and mortar property to worry about.
That might not be the case if a casino’s land-based brand were to be tied to every online gaming site operating under its license.
In simpler terms, this cross-branding adds an extra layer of accountability. With its brand now prominently displayed on all advertising, a brick and mortar casino will almost certainly keep a much closer eye on the promotions and advertisements its online partners and associated brands are running.
By extension, this increased scrutiny of online advertising could lead to a more synergistic approach to advertisement between the brick and mortar casinos and their websites.
Even though his intention is to assist brick and mortar casinos, the requirements in A2811 would be an asset to the state’s online gaming operators.
Caputo’s bill would create better brand association between online gaming sites and their host casinos, and create a second line of demarcation between licensed and unlicensed operators.