Spin Cycle: Smoke In Atlantic City, Fire In West Virginia Highlight Week In Gambling

Eric Raskin

slot machines cosmopolitan

Welcome to “Spin Cycle,” Casino Reports’ weekly Friday roundup of all things impactful, intriguing, impressive, or idiotic in the gambling industry. Pull up a chair, grab a stack of chips and a glass of your beverage of choice, and take a spin with us through this week’s news cycle …

Mountains of revenue in Mountain State

West Virginia, with its population of about 1.8 million people, is never going to put up online casino revenue numbers that compare with Michigan, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. But by its own modest standards, the Mountain State had a massive month in March.

Smashing its previous high of $18.2 million in statewide iCasino revenue set in December, the West Virginia Lottery reported nearly $24 million in revenue for the nine sites last month — a staggering 87% increase over March 2023. That revenue record translated to $3.1 million in taxes for the state.

Adoption of online casino has been a slow and steady build since West Virginia launched its first regulated sites in July 2020. The activity generated $157 in revenue in 2023, and is on pace to go over $200 million this year.

Atlantic City casino workers file suit over smoking

Eighteen years ago, a New Jersey law banned indoor smoking in all workplaces … except casinos. After years of push and pull and casino workers holding their breath (pun intended) hoping for legislation to ban smoking in casinos as well, those workers are taking this one to the courts. 

Last Friday, the United Auto Workers, which represents workers at several Atlantic City casinos, filed a suit in state Superior Court challenging the law. “If the legislators in Trenton won’t do their jobs, we’re going to take the decision out of their hands and into a courtroom,” said Ray Jensen Jr., assistant director of the local UAW office, according to the Associated Press.

In other news that may or may not be related to the continued presence of smoke on casino floors, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement this week released full-year figures for 2023, which showed the nine A.C. casinos with a collective gross operating profit of $744.7 million — down 1.6% from 2022. All nine casinos were profitable for the year, but six of the nine were less profitable than they’d been in ’22.

‘Casino-style games’ in the crosshairs

Gaming machines and apps that resemble slots in one way or another fall into all different buckets of legality as you move from state to state across the country. From so-called “skill games,” to historical horse racing machines, to iLottery, to “sweepstakes casinos,” this scene offers more shades of gray than a nursing home.

Two states made news this Monday with their efforts to clarify some of those gray areas.

In Minnesota, just one week after the state’s racing commission voted to legalize historical horse racing, state Rep. Zack Stephenson introduced a bill to the House Commerce Committee to ban the machines. It’s an issue that hasn’t attracted anywhere near as much attention as the discussion over legalizing sports betting, though it’s gathering steam.

Later the same day, in Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposed a rewrite of the bill meant to regulate and tax slots-style “skill” machines, seeking a higher tax rate (35%) and assorted restrictions that advocates of the games said would have the same effect as banning the machines. The proposed restrictions include prohibiting the machines anywhere within 35 miles of a casino, racetrack, or other legal gambling facility.

If you regulate it, they will come

A report released this month jointly by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and Ontario iGaming, titled “Ontario iGaming Market Channelization,” polled 2,016 Ontarians age 19 or over, and found that 86.4% of those who’d gambled online over the previous three months did so at regulated sites.

That leaves 13.6% that gambled exclusively on unregulated sites, while 19.9% used both regulated and unregulated operators.

Overall, 35.2% of those polled said they’d gambled online in some form over the previous year.

The Shuffle: Other news and views

LOST IN TRANSLATION: Fraud, gambling debts, and Shohei Ohtani’s missing millions

THE EMPIRE EXTENDS NORTH: Caesars Digital looks to boost digital casino content in Ontario with DWG deal

TAKE A HIKE: New Jersey senator officially introduces bill to raise online gambling tax rate to 30%

FLUSH WITH CASH: $608K table game jackpot hits at Las Vegas Strip casino

I GOT THE POWER(BALL): Oregon Powerball billionaire promptly comes forward, vetting process underway

HELPING HAND: GambleAware self-assessment tool hits 100,000-user milestone

THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR: As Maryland online casino efforts stall out, door is wide open for more debate, more research

PROP CHOP: Player harassment may convince NJ to make big change to college sports betting

PLAYTECH TIES: Panama Papers trial begins as Mossack Fonseca founders face money laundering charges

UNITED FRONT: Howe: California sports betting will be done “with and through” state tribes

MAINE DOWN THE DRAIN: U.S. online casino expansion hopes fade as Maine bill loses House vote

GONE PHISHING: Lottery Scams: How to spot them, how to avoid falling for them

BIG BUSINESS: F1 and Super Bowl generate more than $1.1 billion in visitor spending and $1.8 billion in economic impact

CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS: Social casinos and tech giants in court over gambling content immunity

BUCKEYE BENEFITS?: From iGaming’s impact to sports betting disappointment, commission studies the future of gambling in Ohio

YOUR CRIME WAS GETTING CAUGHT: Schuetz: Sports integrity efforts and stopping dumb critters

The Bonus Round

Completing the Spin Cycle with some odds and ends and our favorite social media posts of the week:

  • The economic bounce-back from recent casino worker strikes in Detroit is complete. The city’s three casinos reported $122.3 million in adjusted gross revenue in March, their highest combined total since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. (By the way, to those who used the recent strike-affected months’ revenue as part of calculations that helped you claim legal online casino is cannibalizing brick-and-mortar casino play in Michigan: We see you, and we’re onto you.)
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we have a clear winner for Lamest Casino-Sports Crossover Attempt Social Media Post of the Week. See immediately below from DraftKings Casino. Which preppy millionaire golfers would I want at my blackjack table? Really?! Who cares? Just deal me some good cards and pay me 3:2 on my blackjacks, and you can seat me next to whomever you like.
  • Fanatics, an online gambling company these days among other things, is branching out this summer with its first “Fanatics Fest,” which The Hollywood Reporter describes as “a Comic-Con for sports.” As long as the host company doesn’t require attendees to walk around in see-through pants, count us in.
  • Congrats go out to one of the all-time greats of the poker world, Erik Seidel, who won the opening event of the 2024 U.S. Poker Open on Tuesday in Las Vegas. Sure, the $145,000 top prize is chump change for a guy with more than $46 million in lifetime tournament winnings. But every victory helps when you’re still hoping to be recognized by poker casuals as something other than just “the guy Johnny Chan trapped in that hand from Rounders.”