iGaming Informer: NJ Makes It; Out in Ohio; PR Pratfalls

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Stinker Stinker

Runner Runner bombsDespite energetic pimping by the American Gaming Association and the casino industry, carrying water for Hollywood, U.S. moviegoers turned a blind eye to Runner Runner. The “vaguely ambitions but tawdry melodrama,” set amidst the Internet gambling industry, opened with a weak $7.6 million, far behind box office leader Gravity ($55.5 million) and well below projections.

If the AGA and its supporters can’t get Americans in to see a bored-looking Ben Affleck doing a tired-looking retread of his Boiler Room role, how are they going to leverage Runner Runner into federal legislation to regulate online gambling? Honestly, the AGA was silly to stake its credibility on this picture and, to the average American, it’s obviously a ‘who cares?’ issue.

Runner Runner earned a dismal 23% rating on RottenTomatoes.com and the AGA’s bobbled PR effort deserves lower marks still. Ditto Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, who also blew money and credibility on propping up Runner Runner, the trailer for which had stink-o-rama writ large upon it. Geoff Freeman ought to have known better than to tie his reputation to this turkey as his first act as AGA president.

Time to spare

When terrestrial casinos in New Jersey and their i-gaming partners carpet-bombed Garden State authorities with a last-minute document dump, it looked as though the Nov. 26 “go live” date would recede into December. Regulators had to have everything in hand by Oct. 11 in order for the go-live to be viable (state law requires a 45-day notification period).

They made the deadline with room to spare. A lucky few punters will be able to play starting on Nov. 21, part of a five-day trial period of “soft play.” Almost everyone in Atlantic City has chosen a partner with which to dance, except for high-end Revel and ultra-low-end Atlantic Club Hotel.

Already, Trump Entertainment Resorts is projecting a massive increase in their revenues, with i-gaming representing 20% of the top line. As hoped, the enhancement of casino gambling with Internet play is increasing the curb appeal of brick-and-mortar casinos. 2UP Gaming has been shopping around and now two Philadelphia investors want a piece of the action. Except for Caesars Entertainment partnering with Amaya Gaming instead of 888 Holdings (which will still serve as the World Series of Poker platform), everything’s going according to plan.

Hopes and disappointments

Although Adam Krejcik of Eilers Research is projecting boffo numbers from New Jersey ($405 million annually), he’s disappointed with early returns from Nevada. Between WSOP and Ultimate Poker, he thinks the two are averaging no more than 200 players between them. Worse, he forecasts near-term revenues topping out to $25 million, growing to no more than $45 million.

To put that in perspective, he cited the $80 million-plus generated annually by just one nightclub (XS) on the Vegas Strip. He also maintains that Garden State online play will have to be pushed back, due to “an incredibly cumbersome licensing process.”

G2E LogoAll that being said, Krejcik was mostly upbeat about what he saw at Global Gaming Expo. Social gaming, in particular, he thought to be “only in the very early days of what is achievable.” He was impressed with International Game Techonology’s partnership with DoubleDown and cautiously optimistic for Aristocrat Technologies, having been “underwhelmed” by its product in the past.

He was also “enthusiastic about the potential online opportunities and synergies” arising from Scientific Games’ takeover of WMS Industries, whose game library will be “well received by SciGames customers.”

Stick a fork in it

Internet gambling may be on the way in but it’s definitely Out in Ohio, at least in its current form. Internet cafes offering unregulated, gray-market “sweepstakes” play were outlawed earlier. An effort to repeal the ban came up well short of its signature-gathering goal.

One of the reasons for extirpating ‘Net play was to shoo the players in the direction of Ohio’s revenue-challenged casinos. The latter’s slot play has, in general, been disappointing. Internet cafes were the scapegoat of choice. If outlawing them doesn’t achieve the desired effect, what’s over/under on how long it will take lawmakers to start touting casino-based i-gaming in the Buckeye State?

- David McKee has been covering the gaming industry for the past 18 years. During that time he has held editorships with Casino Executive Magazine, Casino Executive Reports, Casino Journal, the Las Vegas Business Press and Casino Life. He's also written for USA Today, Las Vegas CityLife, Casino Enterprise Management, Las Vegas Luxury and Desert Companion magazine, among many others. His thoughts on the casino business can be found most days at Stiffs & Georges .
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