BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Departing Chair of Casino Control Commission Says AC Must Become Resort Destination

The Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City incurred a $90,000 fine after a dealer allegedly failed to shuffle the cards before putting them into play during a table game last December. The incident cost the state an estimated $40,000 in lost taxes. Nine casino workers lost their jobs and the casino was fined for not catching the incident when it happened. The Taj Mahal has since installed a new multi-million dollar surveillance system. New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chair Linda Kassekert told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that incidents like that are rare. She also said technology in the casino industry has come a long way and Atlantic City will be able to continue to attract visitors as long as the area offers more than just gambling.

While Kassekert said the failure to shuffle cards at the casino is highly unusual, she praised the Division of Gaming Enforcement for its swift action. She also credited the Taj Mahal with acting to update its security system. “Because the most important thing in Atlantic City is that we ensure the integrity of the games,” she said.

There is a chance incidents like the one at the Taj Mahal go undetected, but Kassekert said there are diligent regulators in Atlantic City and the casinos want to ensure integrity and compliance.

“There’s an interest in following the law on the part of casinos because they know that if they don’t, they could lose their license,” she said. “So I think that we have always striven to have integrity here in New Jersey and that has always been one of the hallmarks when the Casino Control Act was signed 35 years ago.”

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Kassekert is stepping down as chair of the Casino Commission to become an administrative law judge. She said the biggest challenge during her time at the commission — a decade — has been the changing technology. She said the Borgata opened at the beginning of her tenure and now Revel has opened, book-ending her tenure at the commission.

“Technology has really overtaken and essentially we will at some point see sports betting hopefully in New Jersey and internet gaming as well, so those will be big changes,” Kassekert said. She said the commission is up to the challenge and will be working with the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Kassekert attributes the decline in gambling revenues in Atlantic City partly to the competition. “When I first became chair of the commission, it was basically New Jersey and Nevada and a little bit in Delaware and Connecticut,” she said. “Now you see gaming everywhere. Massachusetts just got it, of course Pennsylvania has it and Maryland has it and that has really caused for greater competition.”

Atlantic City has to distinguish itself as a resort area if it’s going to succeed, according to Kassekert. “Hopefully the opening of Revel, new hotel rooms, new convention space, new restaurants and spas and hotel towers, that will help get Atlantic City over this decline as we attract more visitors who are coming not just to game, but to do other things.”

There has been talk of opening a casino at the Meadowlands, which Kassekert said will be up to the legislature and would require a change in the state constitution. Currently the constitution states gaming can only occur in Atlantic City.

Kassekert said convenience gambling might work for those who simply want to play the slots, but for those looking for more, Atlantic City will provide that. “It’s fine if you want to drive a couple miles and gamble but you’re not going to get the full resort experience unless you come to Atlantic City,” she said.