Making the News

The Day, New London

Originally Published:Thursday, June 11, 2009

Atlantic City weathers another down month
May casino revenues fall 15.4% from May 2008

By Brian Hallenbeck
The Day, New London


Atlantic City's numbers for May showed no sign of an economic turnaround Wednesday.

The boardwalk's 11 casinos reported winnings of $351.3 million last month, 15.4 percent less than in May 2008, according to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. The total included $246.6 million in slot-machine winnings and $104.7 million at table games, year-over-year declines of 14.9 and 16.7 percent, respectively.

Casino operators had hoped that May's figures would at least hint at recovery, but the month's decline was slightly worse than April's 14.2 percent fall-off. March's 19.4 percent decline was the steepest in Atlantic City's 31 years of legalized gambling.

Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun are expected to release their May slots numbers by Monday.

"The Atlantic City casinos were down in May about the same as they were for the first five months of the year," Dan Heneghan, a spokesman for the New Jersey commission, said. "It's a continuation of the same impacts that have been taking their toll all year and last year - a weak economy, additional competition, the partial ban on smoking ..."

Indeed, through May, the casinos' $1.62 billion win was down 15.7 percent over the same period in 2008.

"It does not portend good things for the summer," Joe Weinert, senior vice president of the Linwood, N.J.-based Spectrum Gaming Group, which analyzes the industry, said of last month's figures.

Atlantic City's latest competition, the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., opened May 22, offering 3,000 slot machines and likely having a slight impact on the New Jersey casinos' May revenues. Weinert said his firm projects that the Bethlehem casino will eventually siphon off 7 percent of Atlantic City's slots win.

Further competition could soon come from Delaware, where racetrack casinos offering slots are expected to add table games and sports betting. That could prompt Pennsylvania's slots parlors to add table games, too, analysts say.

So what's the outlook for Atlantic City, where three casinos that bear the Trump name have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection?

"First, it has to weather the economic storm and then reinvest in making better products - because the market is there," Weinert said. "It has to come up with products that will cause gamblers to drive past 'convenience' casinos (in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware) and come to them. They need multifaceted entertainment resorts at which gambling is just one of the components. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have done that, and so has the Borgata (in Atlantic City)."

May's figures showed declines at all 11 casinos, with the steepest drops at the Atlantic City Hilton, which was down 29.5 percent, and Resorts Atlantic City, down 28.7 percent. The Borgata, the boardwalk's most successful casino, reported a 3 percent decline in May though its slots win for the month was up 4.8 percent.


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