As if Atlantic City’s 11 casinos weren’t already struggling (35 consecutive months of revenue decline and counting), now Mother Nature is having a go. Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the eastern seaboard of the United States, which could result in only the third shutdown of gambling operations in the city since gambling became legal in 1978. (The first came in 1985 courtesy of Hurricane Gloria, while 2006 saw the state shut things down because it didn’t have the money to pay state gaming inspectors.)
While Gov. Chris Christie has yet to issue an official order to curtail operations, the president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, Robert Griffin, told the Associated Press that casino owners were taking matters into their own hands. “Right now, everything is open. But I’d make the leap of faith to believe that at some point over the weekend, there will be [voluntary] closures.” Resorts Casino Hotel boss Dennis Gomes said his employees were already “putting all our cash in the bank, dumping the contents of the slot machines, taking chips off the floor then locking them away.” Caesars Entertainment’s Don Marrandino was busy “getting cash off the floor and into armored cars, putting sandbags on the Boardwalk, you name it.”
A meeting of casino bosses and state emergency management officials will be held Friday, at which the crucial yea-or-nay decision will likely be made. Irene’s full force is expected to hit AC sometime on Sunday, and could result in a 10-foot storm surge – which would mean AC, which has been figuratively underwater for years, could become literally waterlogged. A total loss of revenue on a traditionally busy summer weekend is exactly what AC didn’t need right now. Make it 36 months of revenue decline.
If AC wants to feel better, they need look no further than what casinos are enduring in Mexico. Three casinos in northern Mexico have been targeted by factions of the region’s drug cartels over the past couple weeks, and the most recent attack is also the most horrific. Over 40 people are believed to have died at the Casino Royale in Monterrey on Thursday, after two dozen gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons then doused the interior with gasoline and set it ablaze. The gangs are known to extort businesses, so whether this was a botched robbery or retaliation for not coming across remains to be determined. President Felipe Calderon called the attack “an abhorrent act of terror and barbarism.”