Casino revenue is up, but the market shows signs of cracking — again.
After a tough few years that saw a number of Atlantic City casinos close, it appeared the existing venues were making progress — as well as money. Those who said the AC market had become oversaturated with casinos seemed to be proven right. Apparently, the proper number of casinos in the resort town was seven.
However, that changed when the former Revel reopened as Ocean and the former Taj Mahal became the Hard Rock. No doubt the added jobs were welcome in an industry that had just seen layoffs for many workers, but one had to wonder if the additions would enhance the AC experience and attract more visitors or if it would be a return to the “bad old days” when it appeared there were just too many AC gambling outlets and not enough gamblers to go around.
The state Division of Gaming Enforcement’s recent report began to shed some light on the matter. The good news: 2018 casino revenue was solidly up from 2017. Also, internet and sports wagering grew.
The bad news: Most of the seven casinos that were open prior to the launch of Ocean and Hard Rock won less money in 2018 than they did in 2017.
If you’re thinking “here we go again,” you wouldn’t be the only one.
The competition from casinos in surrounding states was cited as a big factor in the closing of AC casinos in recent years. That hasn’t gone away. Now, there’s also added competition from online gambling.
While everyone would like to see the AC economy grow, jobs increase and tax money pour into state coffers, one has to wonder if history simply is repeating itself. What happens, for example, when the economy cools off and there are even fewer gamblers headed to the Shore? Will the market be able to sustain nine AC casinos, or are we in for another painful round of closures? Is seven really the lucky number?
We wish the best for the casinos, but the early returns are cause for concern.