CASINO

Atlantic City casinos start 2016 on the wrong foot

TAGs: Atlantic City

atlantic-city-casino-revenue-fallAtlantic City casinos started the year on a downer note, as even the market-leading Borgata property earned less revenue than one year ago.

Figures released on Friday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) showed the state’s eight brick-and-mortar casinos earning a combined $175.5m in gaming revenue, 5.6% less than the same month last year. The decline falls to 3.8% if you count the record $14.6m earned by the state’s regulated online gambling market.

January’s numbers bring an end to the asterisks that had to be applied to the monthly figures following the closure of four of AC’s dozen casinos in 2014. For the first time in a long time, true apples to apples comparisons are possible, for which all of us mathematically challenged gambling scribes are profoundly grateful.

Leaving aside the online numbers, January’s results were evenly split between winners and losers. The Borgata suffered a rate setback, as gaming revenue fell 8.8% to $52.1m, although it helps to realize that January 2015’s numbers were up more than 18% year-on-year.

Despite the decline, the Borgata’s numbers were nearly twice that of its nearest competitor, Harrah’s, which was down 9.6% to $27.8m. The Tropicana had a strong month, rising 5.8% to $21.1m, allowing it to unseat perennial third-place finisher Caesars, which was down 13.5% to $20m.

Most of the bottom half of the chart was in positive territory, led by the Golden Nugget’s $16.7m (+5%). Bally’s slipped 12.3% to $13.9m, while the struggling Trump Taj Mahal gained 2.3% to $12.4m and Resorts rose 3.1% to $11.4m.

Meanwhile, New Jersey legislators are planning to mount a fresh push to pass legislation aimed at keeping AC out of the bankruptcy courts. State Sen. Jim Whelan is backing a measure that would require casinos to make fixed annual payments in lieu of property taxes, a switch that would eliminate the often painful adjustments currently plaguing the city’s relationship with the Borgata.

But the legislature is also weighing approval of a five-year plan aimed at helping AC gain control over its finances, a proposal supported by Gov. Chris Christie, given that AC is set to run out of money as soon as April. Whelan said the legislation was intended to “stop the bleeding” but it remained unclear if there was a cure for AC’s “disease.”

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