Continent 8 to build data center in AC Convention Center, paving the way for city to become esports hub of East Coast

By Meg Fry
Atlantic City | Jul 4, 2018 at 12:00 pm
ROI-NJ Exclusive

Continent 8 Technologies, a global network solutions provider headquartered in the United Kingdom, plans to privately invest more than $5 million into the creation of an independent data center at the Atlantic City Convention Center later this year, ROI-NJ has learned.

A formal announcement may come as soon as next week.

Construction of the data center is expected to begin this fall. The center could be in operation as soon as the first quarter of 2019.

The investment by Continent 8 Technologies not only will further support economic development within Atlantic City and the entire South Shore region, but will give New Jersey the opportunity to look past sports wagering into better equipping video gamers to compete — and spectators to bet — in large, revenue-earning, esports tournaments.

Barbara DeMarco, vice president of Porzio Governmental Affairs, a Trenton-based subsidiary of the law firm Porzio, Bromberg & Newman in Morristown, said the increased bandwidth will give the Convention Center the ability to hold large-scale esports events, similar to what you see in Las Vegas and Southern California.

“You need the technology, infrastructure, security, redundancy, power, bandwidth and more to successfully host an esports industry — something Atlantic City does not have at the moment,” she said. “However, once Continent 8 is in place, the sky is the limit.”

Michael Tobin, co-founder and CEO of Continent 8 Technologies, agreed — noting the technology can aid a number of industries, further helping Atlantic City diversify its economic base.

“We see the building of an independent data center in Atlantic City as a critical part of infrastructure that does not yet exist, for any job or company using technology in South Jersey,” Tobin said.

For more than two decades, Continent 8 Technologies has developed faster connectivity and greater cybersecurity protection for integrated, managed and secured global internet hubs with offshore and regulated jurisdictions, Tobin said.

The company arrived at Revel Casino in Atlantic City in 2013 with the expansion of online gaming.

Today, with locations in Newark and the Ocean Resort Casino and Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Continent 8 Technologies connects New Jersey with more than 30 locations across Europe, Asia and the Americas, providing private connectivity and the ability for companies in these areas to expand globally.

The company also is the only independent information technology provider licensed by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement to supply both data center and network services to online gambling licensees.

“How do you take something as overregulated as gambling and something as underregulated as the internet and marry those two extremes?” Tobin said.

“New Jersey wants to be very heavy-handed, so that it always knows what is going on — but, especially within the world of internet gaming, you also need a trusted and knowledgeable fiduciary to be able to pull the plug on anyone causing problems.”

DeMarco, one of New Jersey’s top lobbyists on casino, pari-mutuel and internet gaming, was hired in 2014 by Continent 8 to help change an internet gaming law that required all servers to be in a data room on casino premises.

Changing the law took a year, she said. Finding a location for an independent data center within the geographic limits of Atlantic City proved more difficult.

“Finding a location for the independent data center was no small task, as we needed to find a place with a 100-year floodplain,” DeMarco said.

However, with the help of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and the Atlantic County Economic Alliance, among others, DeMarco said the pathway to construction at the Atlantic City Convention Center has been cleared.

“The facility is currently underutilized, especially since many of the casinos have built out their own convention space,” DeMarco said.

In June, the CRDA board of directors approved entering into a lease with Continent 8 Technologies for space at the Atlantic City Convention Center, Marshall Spevak, deputy executive director at the CRDA, said.

“I suspect we will have pen to paper within the next couple of weeks,” he added.

Tobin said the data center will be powered by solar panels already present at the Convention Center.

Spevak said the company’s commitment will help build the city.

“We are excited to have an internationally known leader in the tech space building a real presence in Atlantic City,” he said. “Having a company like Continental 8 operating in Atlantic City allows us to continue to attract new businesses and conventions to the city who will know we have an internationally recognized company with the technological infrastructure in place to host them.”

Tobin said Continent 8 Technologies be able to serve nearby banks, hospitals, casinos, universities, airports and more from its data center in Atlantic City. He hopes it will add new companies, which will see this as one more reason to relocate.

“Atlantic City is rejuvenating and reinventing itself,” Tobin said. “There are companies that I am quite sure will want to come and run their digital marketing operations here because of the quality of life, the less-expensive taxes and the proximity to both Philadelphia and New York City.

“The push to become a wired city will open up economic development opportunities for the entire South Shore region.”

Atlantic County Economic Alliance Executive Director Lauren H. Moore Jr. added: “The Atlantic County Economic Alliance recognizes the positive economic impact the esports industry can have on our region, which is why we were excited to work with Continent 8 Technologies to help it find a location in Atlantic City for its independent data center. Atlantic City is undergoing a revitalization with a new beachfront college campus and 24/7 activities including casinos, concerts, sports betting and more, that, along with esports, should help attract more millennials.

“We have already seen what a draw esports events have, bringing thousands of participants from all over the world with significant sponsorships and prize money. Continent 8 can build the infrastructure needed to build the industry that will create jobs to support software development and new technologies.

“The ACEA supports this and other efforts to make Atlantic City a new esports hub. We want to introduce Atlantic City to a new generation, one that wants to play as hard as it works.”

It also opens possibilities for new industries and community engagement, Spevak said.

“CRDA currently is taking a hard look at esports,” he said.

DeMarco said it is a wise move for New Jersey.

“Why is Las Vegas considered the esports capital of the U.S. right now?” she said. “Because the developers, the test labs, the players and the stadiums are there, and it is a place where you can bet on it.

“With Continent 8, there is no reason we also could not do that now on the East Coast.”

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Meg Fry | mfry@roi-nj.com | megfry3