Caesars secures approvals to launch online gaming in NJ

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US casino operator Caesars has been given the green light to roll out its real-money online gaming offering in New Jersey after two of its casinos were awarded online gaming permits, while PokerStars operator Rational Group has conceded defeat in its attempt to enter the market in time for next week’s launch.

The state’s DGE has handed licences to Caesars’ largest New Jersey casinos, Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City.

The casinos will be able to soft-launch their offerings later today ahead of next week’s full roll-out. The WSOP.com-branded poker offering will be powered by 888’s poker software, while a Caesars Casino site will feature gaming software supplied by Amaya Gaming.

Caesars operates an additional two casinos in Atlantic City, the Showboat and Harrah’s Resort, which have yet to decide on their online gaming plans.  

With the Borgata, Tropicana, Golden Nugget, Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza casinos having already been approved to offer online gaming services, seven of the eight casinos to have applied for a licence are now ready to begin a five-day test period from today (Thursday), ahead of a full launch on Tuesday November 26th.

Each internet permits authorises the licensee to run up to five websites, with the DGE expected to issue a list of those ready to launch their operations later today.

The Resorts Casino Hotel, which has established a partnership with PokerStars operator Rational Group, is the only casino to have applied for a licence but not yet received one.

“Our conversations with NJ DGE are continuing, however it is now apparent that we will not have approval in place to launch on Nov. 26th, said a spokesperson for Rational Group. “We remain committed to working with the Division to complete the review process.”

Meanwhile, in related news, Moody's has downgraded Atlantic City's underlying general obligation rating to Baa2 from Baa1, reflecting the “significantly reduced tax base due to ongoing casino revenue declines and sizable casino tax appeals stemming from increased competition from casinos in neighboring states.”

“The negative outlook incorporates our expectation that declining casino revenues and ongoing tax appeals will continue to reduce the city's taxable base and further strain the city's weak financial position and increase its debt burden to above-average levels,” said Moodys Investment Service yesterday.

In its most recent results, the DGE revealed that total casino win rose 4 per cent to €216.9m for the month of October, with results a year ago impacted by the mandatory closure of the casinos on October 28th due to Hurricane Sandy. For the year-to-date, casino win is down 8 per cent to $2,430.3m.

The DGE will post the first internet gaming results for November (soft play period and initial play) and December 2013 on January 14th 2014 as part of the Monthly Gross Revenue Reports.

Shares in Caesars Entertainment Corporation (Co. Data) (NASDAQ:CZR) closed yesterday at $17.31 per share in New York, down 3.89 per cent in trading Wednesday.