Making the News

The Day, New London

Originally Published:Friday, December 12, 2008

Gambling slowdown hits Atlantic City, too
Slot revenue decline mirrors casinos here

By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day, New London


Lurching toward the end of a dismal year, Atlantic City's 11 casinos have reported a 7.8 percent decline in November gaming revenues.

Results released Wednesday by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission showed the casinos won $345.5 million last month, including $228.4 million at slot machines and $117.1 million at table games. Compared to November 2007, the slot-machine win was down 12.4 percent, while table-game revenues were up 2.8 percent.

Three of the casinos - Trump Marina Hotel Casino, the Atlantic City Casino Resort and Resorts Atlantic City - reported slot-win declines of more than 20 percent.

In Connecticut, the Mashantucket Pequots' Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, and the Mohegan Tribe's Mohegan Sun are expected to announce their November slot-machine numbers next week.

"Atlantic City's casinos continue to be hurt by the economy overall, and by competition, particularly from the two racetracks outside Philadelphia (in Chester and Bensalem, Pa.) and in New York," Dan Heneghan, a spokesman for the New Jersey commission, said Thursday.

An industry analyst called the Atlantic City results "a little bit better than expected - but still lousy."

"They're caught up in a perfect storm of recession, regional competition and smoking restrictions," said Joe Weinert, senior vice president of the Linwood, N.J.-based Spectrum Gaming Group.

Weinert said Atlantic City faces more competition from Pennsylvania than it does from Connecticut. "To the extent that Atlantic City competes with Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, New York City represents the battle line," he said. "They do compete for certain premium players and Asian players."

While casino gaming revenues have been down for months in Connecticut, New Jersey and elsewhere across the country, they continue to climb in Pennsylvania, if largely because the industry is still so new there, Weinert said. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs introduced slot machines there in November 2006.

"Pennsylvania's still in a growth mode," Weinert said. "They'd be growing a lot more if not for the recession."

Atlantic City's casino revenues the last two months also reflect city officials' imposition of a complete ban on smoking in casinos, which was in effect from mid-October to mid-November, Weinert said. That undoubtedly drove some customers to casinos and racinos in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, where smoking is allowed, he said.

Fearing the economic impact of the total smoking ban, Atlantic City officials reverted to a previous law restricting smoking to 25 percent of a casino's gaming floor.



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