Atlantic City casino gaming revenue fell 12.5% to $212.3m in February, making two straight months of double-digit decline to start off the new year. Slots revenue fell 17.6% to $145.3m, although the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) explains part of this decline was due to a $9.8m reduction in promotional gaming credits wagered since the same period last year. Table game revenue actually rose 0.9% to $67m, despite the fact that only one of AC’s dozen casinos (the Golden Nugget) saw a year-on-year increase in table win. The DGE took pains to point out that February 2012 was a leap year, meaning this year’s numbers contained one less gambling day. Yeah… so pick on someone your own size, February 2012!
Just two of AC’s casinos posted revenue increases in February, with the Tropicana up 12.5% to $16.3m and the Atlantic Club rising 22.7% to $10.2m. The Atlantic Club benefited from a 30.7% boost in its slot machine win, or maybe just being associated with PokerStars is enough to lift a company’s sails. As usual, the Borgata was again the market leader, earning $46.6m (-7.5%), followed by Harrah’s haul of $27.9m (-23.3%) and Caesars’ $24.2m (-16.3%). At the other end of the scale, AC’s worst performer was the recently sold-for-a-song Trump Plaza, which earned just $5.2m (-41.8%). Second- and third-worst went (respectively) to Resorts Atlantic City’s $8.7m (-22.4%) and the borderline bankrupt Revel, which earned $9m. Revel wasn’t open at this time last year, but February’s tally was at least an improvement over January’s $7.9m.
Barring a miracle, Atlantic City is bound to disappoint state politicians who were hoping for increased casino tax revenue this year. Gov. Chris Christie’s willingness to extend Revel some $261m in tax credits in the hopes that a new gaming joint would revitalize AC now looks like money down the drain. Asked on Monday to comment about the latest revenue findings, Christie merely said “I wish it was up 13%, but it’s not.” When you think about it, that’s a pretty zen response for a Buddha-sized fellow.
Critics are challenging Christie’s claims that the state’s new internet gambling sector will help boost casino tax collections 85% in 2014. On March 4, Christie said revenue projections “were based upon the institution of internet gaming and what we think will be a generally better nature of the economy in the next year which will lead to more people having more disposable income and gambling more.”
But State Senator Ray Lesniak, one of the chief architects behind New Jersey’s push for online gambling, believes Christie’s predictions are “unrealistic.” Lesniak told Bloomberg that he just couldn’t see “how a couple of hundred million dollars going into the state treasury can be reached. And I’m the main proponent of this.” Spectrum Gaming Group’s Gene Johnson echoed Lesniak’s skepticism. “I’m not going to say that I understand the governor’s thought process.” Well, of course not. You’re not a Buddha.