Sandy still killing AC casinos; Lesniak welcomes PokerStars to New Jersey

TAGs: Atlantic City, atlantic club casino hotel, New Jersey Online Gambling, Online Gambling bill, PokerStars, Ray Lesniak

lesniak pokerstars new jerseyAtlantic City casinos may have withstood Hurricane Sandy without suffering any serious structural damage, but the storm has now ruined two consecutive months of revenue in the East Coast gaming hub. Figures released Monday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement showed November’s gaming revenue at AC’s dozen casinos fell to $176.6m, down 27.9% from November 2011. Slot machine win fell to $126.1m from $173m and table game take fell to $50.4m from $71.9m. For the year to date, gaming revenue is down 7.9% to $2.83b, with slots down 6.3% to $2.03b and tables down 11.9% to $794.7m.

If you parse the monthly figures to directly account for Sandy’s impact, the difference is even more striking. Over the two-week period ending Nov. 9, in which Sandy forced the casinos to shutter for six days (and a second storm also blew through town, which didn’t force any closures but nonetheless kept tourists away), revenue was off 63% from 2011. The numbers were only off 13% during the three-week period ending Nov. 30 in which the casinos were all open for business.

Looking at the individual casinos, the Borgata was once again market leader, earning $50.3m (down 15%). Second and third place went to Harrah’s and Caesars, which reported revenues of $33.1m (-28.5%) and $29m (-34.6%) respectively. The Atlantic Club turned in the worst performance, earning $8.4m (-10.6%), narrowly edging out the Trump Plaza’s $8.6m (-43.2%). AC’s newest joint, Revel, wasn’t open in Nov. 2011, but it’s $6.2m was down a third from October’s $9.3m. Bally’s year-on-year decline was the worst in percentage terms (46%) while the Golden Nugget managed to slip just 0.4% from last year.

The Atlantic Club’s dire performance can only boost the bold bid by online poker titan PokerStars to acquire the property from its owners, investment firm Colony Capital. And while many observers are still digesting last week’s news, an influential voice in New Jersey’s gaming environment is backing Stars’ move. State Sen. Ray Lesniak, a key figure behind the state’s push for online gambling and sports betting legislation, told’s John Brennan that it was “great to see a modern, global company like PokerStars interested in investing in our state and teaming up with one of the iconic Boardwalk casinos. These kinds of opportunities can be transformative and provide more proof that New Jersey – not Nevada – can be the hub for a new wave of growth in the gambling industry. PokerStars is the biggest company in online poker, and we should welcome them bringing their American headquarters to New Jersey.”

New Jersey’s pending internet gambling legislation – recently amended to eliminate a clause that would have prevented companies like PokerStars from participating – is expected to come up for votes in the Assembly (Dec. 17) and the Senate (Dec. 20). In a conversation last week with Card Player, Lesniak said Atlantic City’s decline would continue unless it was given an opportunity to become the “Silicon Valley of internet gaming.” Lesniak also restated his belief that Nevada should not be automatically be granted a monopoly on internet gaming in the US, much as it currently enjoys a monopoly on single-game sports betting. Lesniak said he isn’t so much trying to beat Nevada to the punch rather than merely ensure New Jersey keeps pace with its cross-country gaming rival.


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