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Change in Atlantic City Jackpot Laws

By: Ryan Alders, Thursday April 7th 2011
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Progressive jackpot online slot games are as popular in land casinos as they are in online casinos. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement regulates the gambling rules for Atlantic City land casinos. It has announced a new rule in connection with progressive jackpots that has the potential of severely harming players' interests. Though it does not apply in the online gambling space, at some point in time it could be used as a precedent and therefore online players should be aware of it.

Simply stated, casinos can terminate progressive jackpots and keep the accrued money. There are some conditions attached. The casinos are required to give the public a notice of 30 days. If no one wins the jackpot in that period the casino can remove the machines and pocket the accrued jackpot. This new rule will apply only to progressive slots within a single casino. Progressive jackpot machines linked among several casinos would not be covered.

There is a history behind this new policy. It was first put into effect in 1992 and within the first three months land casinos canceled jackpots worth $16.6 million and kept the money for themselves. Because of the ensuing hue and cry the rule was changed and required the land casinos to transfer the outstanding progressive jackpot amounts to other progressive games. This was an acceptable way out. The money contributed by the players collectively to the progressive jackpots remained with them. At the same time the land casinos could terminate the machines that were not bringing in required traffic. Now this safety clause for the players is being done away with.

Josh Lichtblau, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, tried to explain the rationale for this change. At the outset he said that this change was part of the casino regulatory reforms passed earlier this year by the New Jersey state legislature. The objective of the reforms was to eliminate some rules that the casino operators claimed were outdated and burdensome. This specific rule would give the casinos the flexibility to more quickly remove slot machines that are not proving popular with gamblers. These reforms came in the context of Atlantic City land casinos losing business to neighboring states. Lichtblau assured that the casinos will not be allowed to let jackpots build up, then cancel them, and later bring back the same slot machines with a lower jackpot.

David Hughes, chief financial officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts, said that the new rule did not prevent the land casinos from transferring the accrued funds to other jackpots. He doubted that the casinos would go on a slot machine cancelling spree. "You'd have a backlash from your customers if you did that. You'd anger your customers, and customers drive everything." The question remains why push for a law that you claim you will never use for marketing reasons.

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