New Jersey’s gaming industry went on a wild ride in 2014, and that ride left a lot of unanswered questions as we head into 2015.
Here are five questions the industry will have to deal with in the coming year.
Will Trump Taj Mahal remain open?
When it comes to the Trump Taj Mahal, the man who holds the keys to the casino’s future, Carl Ichan, seems to be channeling Joe Strummer as he wonders, should I stay or should I go?
Initially Ichan (who owns the bulk of The Taj’s debt) stated he would only take control of and infuse $100 million of his own money into The Taj if the unions and city made several concessions. Ichan got what he wanted when the courts ruled Trump Entertainment could basically trash the health care and pensions of the casino’s unionized workers – a decision the Union is appealing and the state is trying to rectify through new laws.
On the other hand, the city has been unwilling to cave in and give Ichan what he wants – essentially tax breaks and subsidies.
Since he only got a portion of what he asked for, Ichan decided to only infuse the Trump Taj Mahal’s coffers with $20 million (instead of the initially proposed $100 million had his concessions been met), which is enough to keep the doors open for up to a year according to Reuters.
Speculation: The Taj has managed to remain open despite several soft deadlines coming and going, which leads me to believe everyone involved wants the casino to remain open. I would be surprised if The Taj closed in 2015, and I see a compromise being hashed out early in 2015 to avoid the bad press associated with an uncertain future.
Will Revel reopen?
The Atlantic City casino industry seems to be rightsizing itself, but if the Revel reopens, and Trump Taj Mahal keeps its doors open, the city could once again find itself supersaturated, and every operator’s bottom line could be affected.
What is the appropriate number of casinos in Atlantic City?
The answer to this question is probably five or six for the operators to thrive, and seven, maybe eight, for the industry to sustain itself. If The Taj stays open and Revel finds a buyer that wants to reopen the property as a casino the city would be back up to nine casino properties, which will likely lead to a round of musical chairs, where one or two casinos are on the verge of closing every year.
Speculation: The Revel is simply not a casino that can succeed in Atlantic City. I could see someone (or perhaps multiple people) having the necessary hubris to give it another go, but I just don’t see the property (as it currently stands) ever turning a profit if it remains primarily a casino.
Can Pala Poker gain a foothold?
New Jersey is expecting at least one new online poker room in 2015, Pala Poker, but is the California tribe’s online poker site capable of doing what Ultimate Poker and Betfair were unable to? Can they carve out a loyal customer base from the small New Jersey player pool and compete with party/Borgata and Caesars/888 who have dominated the online poker market since the industry launched over a year ago?
Speculation: Pala will struggle in New Jersey. However, the company is almost certainly using New Jersey as little more than a trial run for California. If and when California’s online poker industry gets greenlighted look for Pala to scrap their New Jersey online poker room unless they are turning a profit.
Will PokerStars receive an online poker license?
Any day now, is what we’ve been hearing since the late summer, but here we are on the doorstep of 2015 and there is still no definitive answer as to when, or even if, PokerStars will receive an iGaming license from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
The sale to Amaya (which has already been approved by the DGE) was supposed to fast-track PokerStars license application, but for unknown reasons PokerStars continues to find itself on the outside looking in.
Further muddying the waters is the current investigation by Canadian authorities into the trading of Amaya Gaming stock in the lead-up to the purchase of PokerStars.
While it seems unlikely, if this investigation remains unresolved it’s not out of the question that we could be asking the same questions about PokerStars this time next year.
Speculation: This is simply my gut feeling, but PokerStars will finally get the go ahead in the middle of 2015.
Is legal sportsbetting coming?
New Jersey has been fighting to legalize sportsbetting in the state for several years and after several years of battling the professional sports leagues as well as the NCAA, the state is closer than ever to having the ability to offer legal sportsbetting. But this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to become a reality.
The matter will be decided in the courts, and when it comes to who is right and who will come out on top it’s entirely dependent on who you ask.
Speculation: No sportsbetting in 2015.