Atlantic City casinos will be able to offer fantasy sports betting online and in person under a pilot program announced by state regulators.Although one goal of the pilot program OK'd by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement on Monday is to bring more foot traffic into the casinos, the gambling halls can also choose to offer the bets online or through mobile devices.

It is just the latest in an ever-expanding array of gambling options New Jersey is seeking to approve in order to help the struggling Atlantic City casinos. Gov. Chris Christie recently signed laws approving Internet gambling and the use of hand-held portable gambling devices on casino property. And, the state is battling the federal government and the four major professional sports leagues and NCAA in federal court to try to overturn a ban on legal sports betting in all but four states that previously approved it.

"The casinos' vast customer base and the ability to have contest winners utilize the casino cage to accept entry fees for fantasy sports tournaments and pay out winnings resulting from those tournaments provides an exciting opportunity to bring fantasy sports tournaments to Atlantic City," said David Rebuck, director of the gaming enforcement division. "We see this as an added amenity and beneficial to the casinos and their customers."

But, should they choose, the casinos also have the option to offer the fantasy games online individually or by partnering with established fantasy sports website companies. Nevada casinos also offer fantasy sports betting.

"The casinos could do this on the Internet," said Deputy Attorney General Robert Moncrief. "Our regulations allow it to be done that way. Because it's already allowed online, there's nothing specifically stopping the casinos from taking this online."

Players from other states would be allowed to compete in games hosted by Atlantic City casinos if they went online, authorities said.

The contests allow players to pick a set number of professional athletes for as short as one day, and "draft" them onto a fantasy team. Participants would accrue points based on the players' real-world statistical performances in games, and teams with the highest score or scores would win cash prizes.

Under regulations released Monday, fantasy sports contests are not considered to be gambling under New Jersey law, and the money taken in from them does not count as gambling revenue. Therefore, it is not subject to state casinos taxes or redevelopment funding obligations like revenue from slot machines and table games. It would be taxed and reported to the Internal Revenue Service as any other normal non-gambling revenue, such as the sale of food or beverages, or the rental of hotel rooms.

Officials say using the casino cash cage is a way to avoid online transaction fees from funding accounts or accepting payouts. Indeed, the only reason New Jersey casino regulators are even involved is because casinos now have the option to take and pay out bets through the casino cash cages.

Patrons must be at least 21 years old to play.

The state says the rules will become effective on April 22. That means they will come too late for the surge of interest in fantasy pools for the NCAA basketball tournament, but in plenty of time for baseball and football betting.


(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)