Atlantic City casinos posted their first annual gaming revenue gains in a decade, and the credit is primarily due to their online gambling operations.
Figures released Thursday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show the state’s seven surviving casinos generated brick-and-mortar gaming revenue of $189.7m in December, a 6.8% gain over December 2015. Throw in the $18.4m generated by state-licensed online gambling sites and the year-on-year gain rises to 8.6%.
If you compare only the revenue generated by the seven casinos that were open to the public in both Decembers, the year-on-year brick-and-mortar gain rises to 13.6%, while the total gaming win (counting the online contribution) was up 15%.
December’s numbers were goosed by a particularly strong showing at AC’s gaming tables, which reported revenue up 22.8% to $58.4m, while slots were up only 1% to $131.3m. All seven remaining AC casinos were in positive territory, although Bally’s just barely qualified with a 0.3% year-on-year rise.
As ever, the Borgata took top honors with brick-and-mortar revenue of $57.1m, up 3.7% year-on-year. The month’s biggest gainer was Caesars, which shot up 32.6% to just under $29.7m. The Tropicana and Golden Nugget also posted healthy double-digit gains, rising 27% and 25%, respectively.
New Jersey Casino Control Commission chairman Matt Levinson credited December’s strong showing to some favorable calendar timing, including having New Year’s Eve fall on a Saturday night, as well as “plain old good luck.” Levinson said the numbers offered more hope that AC was “entering a stable environment now.”
ONLINE GAMBLING TO THE RESCUE
The online contribution helped AC achieve a feat it hasn’t managed in a decade, namely, an annual gaming revenue year-on-year increase. For 2016 as a whole, AC’s casinos generated $2.406b in brick-and-mortar gaming revenue, a decline of 0.3% from 2015’s total.
But the numbers were up 1.5% to $2.602b once you add in the $196.7 generated by state-licensed online gambling sites last year. The state’s online market revenue was up nearly one-third year-on-year.
Leaving aside the contributions from the Trump Taj Mahal, which shut its doors in October, total gaming win for AC’s seven remaining operators was $2.477b, 4% higher than those seven properties reported in 2015.
AC’s casino market began its decade-long decline in 2006, the same year casinos launched in neighboring Pennsylvania. AC’s gaming revenue peaked that year at $5.2b, a figure that now seems unimaginable thanks to the torrid pace of casino expansion in northeast US states over the past decade.