Atlantic City casinos defied pessimists by reporting their second straight year of annual revenue growth in 2017.
On Friday, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported its casino licensees generated brick-and-mortar gaming revenue of $186.2m in December, a 1.8% decline from the same month last year. The decline was entirely due to gaming tables playing unlucky, as table revenue was off nearly 8% to $53.8m.
However, December’s haul was enough to bring 2017’s total brick-and-mortar gaming win to $2.41b, a very modest but undeniably positive 0.3% gain on 2016’s full-year total. And when you combine the $245.6m earned by the casino’s online gambling partners, the year-on-year total was up 2.2% to $2.66b.
Even better, if you discount the $125.5m generated in 2016 by the Trump Taj Mahal before it shut its doors that October, the same-store year-on-year gain spikes to 7.3%. And AC casinos have gotten better at squeezing out higher profits since the market underwent its contraction from 12 casinos in 2014 to just seven today.
Five of these seven casinos were in positive territory in December, led (as ever) by the Borgata, which inched up 1.2% to $57.8m. The market’s biggest loser was Caesars, where revenue fell one-fifth year-on-year, thanks to table game revenue falling 42% despite table turnover falling only 2%.
For the year as a whole, the Borgata claimed just under one-third of the total brick-and-mortar haul with $755.1m, more than its two closest competitors combined. Remarkably, all seven casinos posted annual revenue gains, although Bally’s just barely qualified with revenue up 0.1% to $211m.
This year will test AC’s feel-good revival story, as the summer will see two closed AC casinos reopen. The Taj Mahal will be reborn as Hard Rock Atlantic City, while we learned just this week that Revel will emerge from its nearly four-year hibernation as the Ocean Resort Casino. Will too many cooks spoil the broth? Watch this space.