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Ed. note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly characterized GAN as inactive in the New Jersey market. GAN has operated continuously in the New Jersey market since the market opened in November 2013.
The growing out-of-state presence raises two questions:
Before detailing the list of candidates, here’s a look at the three casinos that have planted an online gambling flag in New Jersey, and what they’re hoping to accomplish in the market.
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The first of the three non-New Jersey casinos to launch an online gambling site in the Garden State was the California-based Pala Band of Mission Indians. Pala, which operates the Pala Casino in San Diego, built an in-house online gambling platform, which it launched under Borgata’s license in November 2014.
Pala has been patiently waiting for California to legalize online poker so it can debut the software it’s been working on for several years. In addition to an online poker platform, Pala has built online casino and online bingo platforms.
The latter two have already been unveiled in New Jersey, both as a means of testing the software, and to iron out marketing and promotional ideas.
In July 2015, Mohegan Sun launched an online casino, MoheganSunCasino.com, under the Resorts AC license. Mohegan Sun owns two casino properties, its flagship casino in Connecticut, and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.
The difference between Mohegan Sun and Pala/SugarHouse is that Mohegan had a stake in NJ’s land-based casino market prior to launching a site. It handles the day-to-day operations of Resorts Casino.
Mohegan has a much stronger brand presence in New Jersey, and is using the same platform provider, NYX Gaming, as Resorts. Because of the relationship with Resorts, the two sites aren’t competitors for players, which isn’t the case with Pala and Borgata, or SugarHouse and Golden Nugget.
SugarHouse Casino, located in Philadelphia and owned by Rush Street Gaming, is on an upward trajectory in the Pennsylvania casino market thanks to its prime location and a $160 million expansion project — on which it put the finishing touches earlier this year.
To launch a New Jersey online casino SugarHouse teamed up with Golden Nugget in New Jersey. SugarHouse is piggybacking on Golden Nugget’s online gambling license in much the same way as Betfair, which also operates under Golden Nugget’s license but like SugarHouse, uses its own software platform.
SugarHouse has a sizable customer base in New Jersey. Not only does the New Jersey launch allow Rush Street to field test its software and build player databases ahead of a Pennsylvania launch, the operator stands to be a serious player in the market.
Foxwoods is a powerhouse East Coast casino in Ledyard, Connecticut. It has a lot of name recognition up and down the eastern seaboard, from Maine to New Jersey and beyond.
So like its nearby rival Mohegan Sun, the Foxwoods brand would resonate in the New Jersey market.
Connecticut isn’t a prime candidate for online gambling legalization, but it is in the conversation. And with new casinos popping up in surrounding states, Foxwoods is exploring a number of different revenue-boosting options.
Recent attempts to expand its footprint to other states have come up short, as proposed projects in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts failed to come to fruition.
Foxwoods is already familiar with online gambling thanks to its thriving social casino product. Furthermore, Foxwoods has an interactive division, headed by Frank Pracukowski, and recently added daily fantasy sports entrepreneur Seth Young to its roster.
Additionally, Foxwoods main competitor, Mohegan Sun, is already in the online gambling market in New Jersey, giving Foxwoods even more reason to consider launching a New Jersey online casino product.
Parx Casino is a somewhat unwilling participant in online gambling. But as Parx Chairman Bob Green indicated at a 2015 hearing, if Pennsylvania is going to have online gambling, Parx is going to be involved.
Because of its close proximity to the New Jersey border and its strong brand, Parx would be in the enviable position of using New Jersey as a revenue stream, and not just as a testing ground.
Parx’s platform partner for simulated gaming in Pennsylvania, GAN (formerly Game Account Network), currently powers Betfair’s real-money online casino offering in New Jersey. The Borgata is expected to switch to GAN’s platform for online casino operations later in 2016.
Penn National has already started making plans in anticipation of Pennsylvania passing an online gambling bill:
It’s unclear if Penn National would turn its social casino platform into a real-money gambling platform (which would require some field testing), or if it would partner with a more established online gambling platform.
What is clear is Penn National is one of the biggest proponents for legalized online gambling. This could really help the company considering Penn National operates casinos in two other states that are strong candidates for online gambling legalization: Plainridge Park Casino in Massachusetts and three Illinois casino properties.
The final candidate is the Cordish Company, which operates the Maryland Live! Casino (one of the casinos that has cannibalized Atlantic City properties), along with two Seminole Hard Rock Casinos in Florida.
Cordish is in the midst of building a casino in Philadelphia, which will likely have the company exploring online gaming options. Live! Hotel and Casino Philadelphia is currently in the planning and construction phase.
Cordish also operates several non-gaming facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that could be used to help market their online casino:
When we add all of this together, Cordish becomes a solid candidate for a New Jersey online casino, most likely under the Live! brand.
One of the dynamics that may keep other operators out of New Jersey is market cap.
Even if the online market continues to grow and mature, if more sites are launched, at some point the market will reach a saturation point and individual revenues will start to decline.
By way of comparison, since four of the state’s casinos closed in 2014, land-based casino revenue has continued to decline industry-wide, but the remaining operators have (for the most part) seen revenues and profits rise.
If another casino opens or reopens the market size will grow, but much of the new casino’s revenue will be at the expense of existing operators.
Right now there are five operators and 13 distinct online casino brands (14 if we count PokerStars, whose online casino games are available through the poker client).
So far, additional online casinos have been beneficial, but it’s unclear at what point new online casino brands would be a detriment, particularly if the new additions keep showing up with proprietary software.