Casinos in Atlantic City are shutting down this weekend in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Gov. Chris Christie issued a mandatory evacuation of the barrier islands and ordered all businesses in Atlantic City, including the casinos and their hotels, to shut down as of 4pm Sunday. All roadways leading into Atlantic City will be closed at the same time. Director of public safety William Glass pleaded with residents not to “take this storm for granted” because rescue crews may not be able to reach them if they choose to ignore the evacuation order. Christie has indicated that he may advance the 4pm timetable, but some of the casinos are way ahead of him. The two Trump casinos have instructed guests they must be off the property by 2pm.
Sandy is one half of what meteorologists are calling a potential Frankenstorm – the other half being a wintry storm front coming down from the north – and could be far more destructive than Irene, the last hurricane to cause AC’s casinos to board up the windows in August 2011. Forecasters say Sandy will come ashore with 40-miles-per-hour winds and up to six inches of rain, which, combined with tidal surges, could leave great areas of the region underwater. Emergency management director Tom Foley said Sandy is predicted to be as bad as the March 1962 storm that introduced the Atlantic Ocean to the city’s downtown.
This will be the third weather-related shutdown (the fourth overall) in the 34 years since the casinos opened in Atlantic City. Naturally, given AC’s perpetual bad luck, the boarding-up is yet again taking place on a weekend, when casinos make most of their revenue. Irene resulted in AC’s biggest revenue drop in three years, although that was on one of the busiest weekends of summer, not the tail end of a weekend in October. Regardless, while the extent of Sandy’s effect on casino revenues is not yet quantifiable, one thing’s for sure: it won’t help.