Atlantic City Summit Scheduled

Atlantic City Summit ScheduledCasino closings and declining revenue have prompted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to schedule a September summit to discuss Atlantic City’s future.

Set for Sept. 8, Christie has requested that officials from all levels of government throughout the state attend the summit to discuss ideas and ways to improve Atlantic City’s struggling gaming industry. The roundtable will also include casino executives, in addition to labor union representatives.

The Showboat, Trump Plaza and Revel casinos have all set firms dates on which to close, with the shutdowns of all three to be finalized just a couple weeks after Labor Day. Including the January closure of Atlantic Club, the state’s gaming industry has taken a hit like no other.

State Sen. Jim Whelan blamed Atlantic City’s troubles on the vast number of casinos that have sprung up in adjoining states in recent years. Pennsylvania is viewed as the main culprit, as the Keystone State supplanted New Jersey last year as no. 2 in land-based gaming revenue throughout the nation, trailing only Nevada.

But revenue troubles began long before last year in Atlantic City, as the Garden State has now tallied eight consecutive years of decreases. July of this year was no better, with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reporting that revenue tumbled 6.6% last month when compared to July 2013 totals.

Of the three casinos set to close, the Revel saw the biggest decrease last month at 36%. Trump Plaza’s revenue totals were 34% off of last year’s pace, while the Showboat was down 19%.

While closing dates for all three have been announced, the latest reports from the Press of Atlantic City indicate that bids for the Revel are still being evaluated. Buyers for the other two casinos would also certainly be welcomed and there may be negotiations behind the scenes that have not been made public.

New Jersey state officials are concerned that roughly 6,000 casino workers will hit the unemployment line due to the shutdowns. While some jobs were created when online poker and gambling was launched last November, long-time casino employees will likely experience hardships unless buyers emerge for the struggling casinos.

It is not all gloom and doom in Atlantic City, as revenue did increase at some casinos. Golden Nugget saw a 40% boost in July over last year. Tropicana did nearly as well at 34%.

Online poker and gambling also showed an increase, as revenue in July cracked the $10 million mark. Comparisons to last year are non-existent since igambling launched in November. However, with revenue for June reported at $9.5 million, online gambling saw a decent rise that may quiet the anti-online gambling crowd for a spell.

Next month’s summit will be followed by recommendations from the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission. That agency will evaluate the information and ideas put forth during the discussion and advise accordingly.

Some of that advice may include casino expansion to the northern part of the state to capture New Jersey gamblers who cross the border. Such expansion has been put on hold until 2016, but the casino shutdowns and overall state of the Atlantic City gaming industry may force Christie and other officials to modify previous plans.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett