Atlantic City casinos continue their losing ways

New Jersey's one-time gambling powerhouse suffered the industry's biggest decline in 2012 revenue, and competition is only getting worse.

By Jonathan Berr May 7, 2013 12:11PM
Ball on Roulette wheel , close-up (©Adam Gault/Digital Vision/Getty Images)Atlantic City's 12 casinos, which have struggled for years in the wake of heightened competition from neighboring states, suffered a setback in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy. Whether things will get better in 2013 is, well, a crapshoot.

The New Jersey gaming industry reported gross revenue of $3.05 billion, a decline of 8%, while state tax revenue from gambling slumped 8.2% to $254.84 million, the biggest drops among the 22 states with legalized gaming, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report citing data from the American Gaming Association.

New Jersey officials hoped to counter the decline in Atlantic City with Revel, a glitzy $2.4 billion Las Vegas-style resort with 1,399 rooms featuring "sweeping ocean views." The state provided $261 million in tax incentives through the Economic Development Authority in 2011 after the project's original backer, Morgan Stanley (MS), walked away and wrote down most of its investment. The Wall Street firm made the right call;  Revel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year.

Competition for Atlantic City will only get worse. As the newspaper noted, Pennsylvania's gaming industry is booming, and both New York and Maryland are adding casinos. Plus, MGM Resorts (MGM) is planning to build one near Washington, D.C.

New Jersey hasn't given up on gaming. It's one of three states to have legalized some form of Internet gambling. And Revel recently announced that it would begin welcoming "canine family members up to 30 lbs" as guests starting Memorial Day.

The Miss America Pageant also is returning to the historical home in Atlantic City after an absence of eight years. However, as the Associated Press recently noted, it's getting triple the amount of subsidies it had received previously.

New entrants, including The Rational Group, parent company of popular poker website PokerStars, want to enter the Atlantic City market, but they aren't spending big bucks to do it. The Associated Press reported that Rational is seeking a court order to prevent the struggling Atlantic City Club from selling itself to anyone else. Rational's offer, $15 million, is the lowest ever for a casino.

Ironically, the one big advantage that Atlantic City has over its rivals -- its beach -- isn't proving to be a significant draw.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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53Comments
May 7, 2013 1:10PM
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Me and the wife went there two yrs ago and the beach was filthy . The boardwalk smelled like Pi$$ The casinos sucked the room in the Trump taj was dirty . The hotel staff was useless and everything was so high priced , and nothing but useless rude people walking around . NEVER again... And they wonder why ?

May 7, 2013 1:15PM
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in the end, you're still in Atlantic City, New Jersey........  there are nicer places to be

May 7, 2013 1:55PM
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I live in new jersey and been to las vegas more times.  Atlantic city sucks plain and simple . They don't have a clue how to treat people. 
May 7, 2013 1:51PM
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Atlantic City just doesn't get it. Overpriced rooms on weekends (when the average working stiff can go) are what's killing them. I know many people who would stay in AC if they could get a decent room for a decent price on the weekend but the casinos want to charge you top dollar for minimum service (and cleanliness). With the casinos in MD, WV & DE offering gaming, nice lodging and less other stuff (AC is kind of a hole) no wonder people are turning away. Keep pricing yourself out of the market - STOP WHINING AC!
May 7, 2013 1:46PM
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Took  my wife for a two week "vacation" to New York City, Boston and Atlantic City last year.  Prices were way high, customer service was horrible, and the experience was miserable.  The "so-called" boardwalk smelled like a sewer and the entire area was the last place on earth anybody could want to re-visit.  Tried to eat the local cuisine and couldn't find a single place to say anything good about.  Based on our experience, all I can do is advise you to take your tourist dollars West or South because the Northeast in general and Atlantic City in particular is dying for very good reasons.  
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Lets think about it...you could come to one of the beautiful new casino's here in Maine where they are bending over backwards to show people a great time at affordable prices...enjoy the scenic area's mountains, lakes and streams...or...you could go to New Jersey...hmmm....going to have to think about that one long and hard I tell you...lol.
May 7, 2013 2:29PM
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I live in NJ and the problem with the casinos is that they are super greedy.  An example of this is most people work Monday-Friday & so on the weekend you may want to plan a getaway to the casinos.  Well here is the problem: They jack the rooms up to $200-$400 a night (or more) & then if you venture into the casino to bet everything has a $25 minimum.  Sure you may find one $10 table but the line is 20 deep waiting to play.  It's bad business...they should have multiple lower limit tables & I guarantee more people would go & play.  The other thing is Atlantic City is still a DUMP!!!  Sure they cleaned it up a little(and i mean just a little) but you still don't feel safe on the boardwalk or 1 block away.
May 7, 2013 1:42PM
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From where I live in NJ I can almost get to the CT casinos as fast as I could get to AC.  But who'd want to.  The CT casinos are very nice.  We have not stayed but have had several lovely pit stops on our way up to Maine.  If it was not for Camden AC would be the biggest hole in NJ.
May 7, 2013 1:22PM
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Gee, a bunch of unionized lazy workers, being useless??  Who would have thunk????
May 7, 2013 1:43PM
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I shared the following with one of my casino hosts in Vegas.   She had no rebuttal other than it makes sense.

 

Why not have the reputation as the place where you have the best chances of winning? (To go to Vegas or AC and just lose your **** does not make my family want to be in any hurry to return.  My last trip to AC a couple years ago to Trump's Dump, to say I felt like I stood no chance of winning crap is an understatement.  As I said, my last trip to AC...never going back).

 

Having the reputation as the place to win, means more hotel rooms rented.  Means more patrons in the place eating, drinking, attending shows.   Common sense, no? 

 

Ah, but we are really dealing with the Communist state of NJ, and their precious tax revenue.  Greed!!!

May 7, 2013 2:08PM
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Starting with the drive into AC look on the side of the roads Rt42, Rt30, and the AC exp nothing but trash laying there and from NJ slobs driving to and from AC along with all the debris that wash's up from the storms. That's enough to make most people heading to the city say no thanks the state and county should start putting some of the scum bag prisoners to work cleaning this up first. Lets see next you get into town and get hounded by beggars, drug addicts, and panhandlers all hitting you up for money. Oh and I forgot all the local crazies that wander the streets and Boardwalk mumbling and ranting about who knows what. Next we get to th boardwalk and as someone stated before it smells like piss and crap because of all the homeless living on it, and under it.

Then we get into the casinos themselves the one thing that people liked in the beginning was that you had to be dressed up to enter the casinos in the evening then at some point the casinos decided they wanted to look more like the Wal-Mart nation and let you in wearing what ever you want. Well let me tell you the last thing I want to do as well as I'm sure a lot of others want to do is get dressed up and take a date to the AC casinos so we can sit next to some smelly **** in a dirty sweat suit and gamble not my idea of an enjoyable night. Then there is the over priced food establishments and bars I understand wanting to make money off of food and alcohol sales but the prices have gone up and quality has gone down hill at a steady rate for the years now.

That is why I have not set foot in an AC casino in the last 15 years.

May 7, 2013 2:59PM
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New Jersey has given up their right to take our money.  They treated us like they treat their waterways for decades and they expect us to feel sorry for them when something better comes along and they can't make a profit anymore?  I don't think so.  Their waterways, gambling establishments and politicians all stink more than we're willing to put up with.  There's a new shell game closer to home now, see ya!.
May 7, 2013 2:12PM
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Want to know what's killing Atlantic City? The fact that the casinos don't compete with each other because while there are multiple casinos, yet there are only a few owners. This was fine for them when there was no outside competition, but since the casinos in CT and NY started opening, AC can't seem to keep up. They didn't need to compete with each other before, because whether you went to Taj Mahal or Harrahs, Trump was still making his money. 
May 7, 2013 2:26PM
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Went there and told myself that I would never return.............

......and I haven't.
May 7, 2013 2:59PM
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Got a free room at Revel last september, and thought it was beautiful....but with other pros and cons:

 

Pros:

 

Fire pits and a great view from the roof overlooking the ocean

I Won money

Great room/comfortable bed 

Indoor/outdoor Pool overlooking the ocean with a waterfall, music, outdoor bar and a game room/tv's

Private section of beach for Revel guests only 

Check out Kiosk (no standing in line)

 

Cons:

 

Expensive breakfast

Coffee buffet in the lobby (who would have been fine except we had no idea it was there), no coffee maker in the room

Crane on the beach for construction and extreme undertow so they wouldn't let us go in the water

Advertized a Friday, Saturday and Sunday brunch on their website, then had no idea what I was talking about. 

Resort is too vast-takes 2 days to figure out how to get around and there is A LOT of unused empty space

Poker room is hiddeen so no one knows it's there

 

On a side note, went to the Taj Mahal and had the WORST BUFFET EVER!

May 7, 2013 2:41PM
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Been to New Jersey Casinos.

Smelled and the service was non-existant.  You looking for casinos but can't make it to Vegas, I will pick the ones on the Mississippi gulf coast.  Clean beaches, A-1 service and entertainment, laid back good time, friendly people.  Less than a hours drive to New Orleans on top of that. 

May 7, 2013 3:25PM
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They must be pumping nitrous into the casino board rooms. These one time fat cats are going to find there way to the alley of piss right outside there house of cards. Wake up you imbeciles , your not in 1984. Get  your heads out of  your asses and do some catering to your needed customers. Make us want to be at your hotels and have your staff treat us like guests. Stop trying to squeeze every cent out of every aspect of your operation. Give a little and maybe people will stop in to see if the stank has lifted from the cesspool by the sea.

May 7, 2013 2:57PM
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All states and towns are starting to look to gambling now.  Its a way to raise revenue without raising taxes.  It's the "hot" thing now.  And it always comes at the expense of other areas.  Honestly destruction couldn't come to a better industry.
May 7, 2013 3:39PM
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Maybe if they tried cleaning up the city and tearing down some of  the slum areas and getting crime there under control so people would not be afraid of going there and getting killed, people would start coming back again
May 7, 2013 3:16PM
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When the MOB ran the Tropicana, it was a TOP NOTCH Destination to Gamble.  NOT ANY MORE!
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