If you moved to or first visited the Atlantic City area in the past year, it’s hard to imagine that only a few years ago. The city was on a major downward spiral. In just two years (2014-16), five Atlantic City casinos had closed, more than 11,000 people lost their jobs, and the future of the town looked bleak.
I was there to see the sad saga unfold firsthand. But now I am still there to witness and celebrate the metamorphosis.
Two great years for Atlantic City, back to back
But that wasn’t the only noteworthy happening to make the 40th anniversary of NJ casino gambling every bit as worthy of celebration as the May 26, 1978, opening of Resorts, the first legal casino in the US outside of Nevada.
Finally, after a long, hard fight that NJ took to the Supreme Court, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was declared unconstitutional. As a result, New Jersey became the third state in the country to legalize full-scale sports betting.
What could happen in 2019 that could be equally, if not more spectacular? Last year, Atlantic City casinos took in nearly $3.3 billion in revenue!
How the 2019 figures compare with those for 2018
In my Jan. 2, 2020 article for NJ Online Casino, “Atlantic City 2019 Casino Gaming Revenue Has Topped $3 Billion,” I reported that 2019 marked the first time since 2012 that total Atlantic City casino gaming revenue had reached that magnitude. Moreover, the figures that were available at that time only covered the period through November 2019.
Now that the data for December 2019 have been added, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) reports a total of $3.29 billion in revenue for 2019 for the nine Atlantic City casinos combined. This represents an increase of more than 15% compared to 2018.
Online casino gambling in 2019
Online casino gambling contributed significantly to the bottom line. Internet gambling accounted for $482 million in revenue in 2019, an increase of more than 61% over 2018.
However, most individual Atlantic City casino profits were down
The addition of two casinos has had the positive effect of producing new jobs and adding new revenue. But the downside has been that the two new casinos have diluted the profitability of the seven other Atlantic City casinos. Five casinos: Tropicana, Harrah’s, Bally’s, Caesars and Resorts, each won less money in 2019 than in 2018. Tropicana posted the biggest revenue decline (8.2%).
On the other hand, Golden Nugget, second in revenue to the perennial leader, Borgata, reported an increase in revenue from 2018 to 2019 of 15.4% to $378.4 million. Borgata also showed a small gain. Its revenue was up 3.5% to $797.8 million.
Sports betting added another $300 million to the 2019 total
The above-mentioned figure of $3.29 billion includes both land-based and online Atlantic City casino gambling but not sports betting. When the revenue from sports betting is added to the equation, the total gambling revenue for 2019 jumps to $3.46 billion.
The two biggest months for sports betting were November and December, with nearly $563 million and nearly $5.58 million wagered respectively at NJ sportsbooks. Altogether, nearly $4.6 billion was wagered at NJ sportsbooks in 2019.
Summary and conclusion
Even though some Atlantic City casinos did not fare as well in 2019 as they did in 2018, gambling analysts don’t see these results as a major problem. On the contrary, they are encouraged by the bigger picture, which is the overall revenue increase.
As Rummy Pandit, a gambling analyst at Stockton University, points out:
“Atlantic City has successfully diversified its gambling offerings, particularly through sports betting and internet gambling. Those two products, developed since November 2013, now account for more than 18% of Atlantic City’s winnings.”
However, there is still room for improvement. David Schwartz, a gambling historian with the University of Nevada Las Vegas, believes that in order to continue the upward trend, “what Atlantic City needs right now is to improve its image and marketing and become a destination in a crowded Northeast casino market.”