Internet gambling revenue in New Jersey surged more than 32 percent in 2016, and a new study from gaming industry research group Eilers & Krejcik anticipates additional growth of 17 percent this year.

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But perhaps the best news for Atlantic City in this study is the perceived impact online gaming is having on the seven remaining brick-and-mortar casinos.

"Online gambling is becoming a highly effective tool for Atlantic City's casinos," the report stated. "Increased integration between the online and live casino appears to be driving additional play and visitation at land-based properties."

With the gambling seaside town already decimated by competing casinos in neighboring states, it's been debated for some time whether the ability to wager online would suck even more potential customers out of Atlantic City.

But the report insists online gambling revenue is not coming at the expense of casino gambling revenue. In fact, operator commentary consistently confirms that the online product is capturing new customers and reactivating existing ones, the report said.

"What internet gaming is doing is allowing people to be familiar with gaming in the comfort of their own home," said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University. "Now once a player becomes familiar online with your internet gaming ... typically when they want to go visit a brick-and-mortar property, they are probably going to visit your property."

Also getting online customers — old and new —  out of their homes and to the casinos themselves are player rewards that can only be used in person, such as free meals and discounted overnight stays.

Pandit said it's no surprise that online gaming may be leading to more brick-and-mortar business, as many gamblers seek an "experience." Some players prefer to wager in their pajamas in the comfort of their own home, but others may crave the real casino atmosphere from time to time, interacting with others and having several entertainment and dining options just seconds away.

Compared to the same month one year ago, Atlantic City's casinos posted a 7.7 percent gambling revenue gain in January. Internet gambling provided $18.8 million for the month.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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