Making the News

Press of Atlantic City

Originally Published:Thursday, April 29, 2010
http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/business/article_47fdaba2-5329-11df-a248-001cc4c03286.html

Longer stays, lower spending for Atlantic City casino customers

By Donald Wittkowski
Press of Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY - Casino customers are staying longer but spending less while they are here, according to a new report that underscores the importance of hotel rooms for reviving Atlantic City's gaming market.

The average length of stay exceeded 15 hours in 2009, the first time that has happened. That figure is a full hour longer than the average length of stay just three years ago, the newsletter Gaming Industry Observer reported.

At the same time, casino customers are more reluctant to open their wallets and pocketbooks. The newsletter reported that net revenue per visitor fell to an average of $8.84 per hour. Figures in that category have dropped three years in a row, from a peak of $10.54 per hour in 2006.

Michael Pollock, publisher of Gaming Industry Observer, said customers have responded to the sluggish economy by cutting back on their gambling budgets. He noted that the free-spending, pre-recession days are long gone.

"It's not going to come back to 2006 and 2007, because people were spending more than they could afford then," said Pollock, who also is managing director of the Linwood-based casino consulting firm Spectrum Gaming Group.

The longer length of stay may seem like encouraging news, but the figure has been skewed by a shift in Atlantic City's visitor base. Pennsylvania's slot parlors have been drawing more of the bus passengers and other day-trip customers away from Atlantic City, which has weighted the data more heavily toward overnight customers, Pollock explained.

"The overnight guests remain the most loyal customer segment," he said.

Overnight guests now represent more than 30 percent of the Atlantic City market, the highest percentage ever, the newsletter found. Day-trip visitors who arrive by car comprise about 52 percent of the market, while bus passengers make up the remainder.

Pollock said the visitor figures clearly show that hotel rooms remain "a powerful weapon" in Atlantic City's ability to compete against casinos in surrounding states. Atlantic City's casino hotels bill themselves as full resort-style properties compared with the more modest slot parlors in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York.

"What this indicates is that the overnight market is Atlantic City's not-so-hidden strength and that the signposts all point toward getting more overnight visitations," Pollock said. "That means targeting markets that are willing to stay overnight, but also means leveraging hotel rooms as a strength moving forward."

While Atlantic City may have aspirations of becoming a true overnight tourist destination, it still is far behind Las Vegas in that regard. The average length of stay for Las Vegas visitors last year was 4.6 days, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Las Vegas casino customers gambled an average of $481.57 last year, the authority also reported.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

DWittkowski@pressofac.com

 

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