With July revenue down 6.6% and three casinos preparing to close up shop by mid-September, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has called for a meeting of minds to discuss the future of Atlantic City.
Policymakers from city, county and state levels of government are expected to attend the summit scheduled by Christie for Sept. 8. Also invited to the roundtable discussion are casino industry executives and labor representatives.
The latter are concerned that about 6,000 casino employees will soon be hitting the pavement in hopes of landing new positions following the scheduled closings of Trump Plaza, Revel and the Showboat casinos. While buyers for all three gaming establishments are still being sought, each has set a closing date that will reduce the number of operating casinos in the state to eight by Sept. 16.
There is no doubt that Atlantic City faces real challenges as the city undergoes revitalization, which is why this summit of key policymakers, local leaders and stakeholders is needed to be an active part of the conversation as to how we can best address these issues that have a broader impact on the broader region and our state as a whole,” Christie told the Press of Atlantic City.
Casino expansion on East Coast to blame
Atlantic City’s financial problems are blamed mostly on casino expansion in neighboring states. Last year, Pennsylvania and its 12 casinos knocked New Jersey from its long-held no. 2 position in gaming revenue among the 50 states. The Keystone State now trails only no. 1 Nevada.
With more casino expansion in the works in nearby New York, the situation may get worse. Which is why Christie has scheduled a sit-down in order to get a better hold on the direction to be taken in Atlantic City.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released revenue figures for July that found the state’s 11 casinos to be off last year’s pace by 6.6%. The casinos set to be shuttered showed even larger declines as Revel (36%), Trump Plaza (34%) and Showboat (19%) all posted significant decreases.
Positive news from some casinos and online gambling
The dark cloud hovering over Atlantic City does have a silver lining for those who seek to find it. Positivity comes from the fact that revenue was up substantially at Golden Nugget (40%) and Tropicana (34%) when compared to 2013 revenue totals.
Another bright spot was online gambling revenue that increased to over $10 million in July from about $9.5 million the month before. Internet poker and gambling was enacted and launched in New Jersey partly to offset poor land-based gaming revenue numbers in recent years and in that regard has been a success.
September’s summit will likely be followed by suggestions from the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission on how best to proceed to improve the situation in Atlantic City and the state in general. One option may be to locate casinos in the state’s northern end to attract residents who may be crossing the border to gamble in competing states.