Years from now (and even today) when U.S. gambling historians examine 2014, they will quickly find that it was a terrible year for Atlantic City.
Four casinos closed, an eighth straight year of decreasing revenue, and an online poker and gambling regime in its first full year that went through considerable growing pains and continues to perform at revenue levels less than expected. The Showboat, Atlantic Club, Trump Plaza and Revel shutdowns put 8,000 employees out of work, while the future of the Trump Taj Mahal remains questionable.
It’s no secret that New Jersey officials are anxious to throw away that 2014 calendar and turn the page to what is expected to be a better year in 2015. How will it be better? Well, to borrow a line from John, Paul, George and Ringo, “it can’t get more worse.”
What can we expect?
Let’s look at some bright spots for Atlantic City in 2015 — and they are there to be found. First of all, the Trump Taj Mahal, which was expected to close December 20, appears to be safe for the time being. And the Revel may once again accept wagers from gamblers one day if Glenn Straub’s desires are met.
The new year will also likely see continued discussions among state honchos about plopping a new casino down in northern New Jersey. That could capture a gambling market that flees to nearby states to place bets. Keeping those gamblers home and gambling in the Meadowlands seems a good idea, as well as siphoning some gamblers from New York and Pennsylvania.
New York is moving ahead with gambling expansion plans of its own. The winning bids and locations of three new casinos in the Empire State were recently named. Competition will get that much tougher when those upstate New York casinos open their doors in 18 months or so.
A big reason for the ills of Atlantic City are the casinos that sprouted up in Pennsylvania in recent years. It may be time for a pay back.
PokerStars, where are you?
Another reason for optimism is the anticipated approval of an online poker and gambling license for PokerStars. Yes, we have heard that before and are still waiting. If and when new owner Amaya’s application gets the green light from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), it can only help igaming revenue.
But the effects may be even more far-reaching than the Internet. Under the Rational Group’s leadership, remember when PokerStars promised to base their U.S. headquarters in Atlantic City and open a live poker room if permitted to acquire the Atlantic Club? Well, that idea didn’t pan out, and with it went the promise of an economic boost created by a home base and casino that meant jobs for New Jerseyans.
But it’s not inconceivable to see Amaya forge ahead and set up shop in New Jersey once the OK comes from the DGE to legally operate online. A live poker room may still also be in the cards in the future should that happen. And casino ownership by Amaya with the name “PokerStars” above the entrance? It’s not far-fetched or out of the realm of possibilities once their foot is firmly established on American soil.
We will have to wait and see how the future unfolds. But 2015 has got to be a better year for Atlantic City. “It can’t get more worse.”