July offers no relief for Atlantic City casinos

Newark, New Jersey – (AP) — Any hope for a turnaround at Atlantic City’s casinos evaporated in the July heat.

Summer is usually a hot time for the 11 gambling halls, but not this year. Revenues fell 6.6 percent this July compared to a year ago, increasing the likelihood that the city’s industry will have its second consecutive down year.

The casinos took in USD 438.7 million in July, compared to USD 469.6 million a year earlier and the single-month record of USD 504.8 million in July 2005, the Casino Control Commission on Monday.

Revenues for slot machines fell 7.2 percent to USD 304.5 million while table game revenues fell 5.1 percent to USD 134.2 million.

Over the first seven months of the year, casino revenues are running 6.1 percent behind the same period last year.

The revenue figures do not represent profit. They represent the amount the casinos won after paying all bets.

„This is turning out to be an ugly year for Atlantic City,“ said Joseph S. Weinert, editor of the Gaming Industry Observer, a trade publication.

Although this July had 12 weekend days compared to 13 a year ago, „The big issue is that gasoline in the mid-Atlantic was USD 4.08 a gallon, versus USD 2.95 a year ago,“ Weinert said.

The results in 2007 — the first down year since New Jersey casino gambling began in 1978 — were hurt by the advent of slot machines in Pennsylvania, and recessionary pressures are making 2008 even worse, he said.

„Just when Atlantic City was hoping to turn the corner and absorb the impact from Pennsylvania, along came the economy and kicked it in the groin,“ Weinert said.

Revenues will again be hurt when a partial smoking ban becomes total in October, Weinert said, but added, „We’re still bullish on Atlantic City in the long term.“

The city is still making the transition to a getaway destination, and will need more multifaceted properties, like the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa operation and a USD 2 billion casino-hotel that Revel Entertainment plans to open in 2010.

Only two casinos did better this July than last: Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City was up 19.7 percent to USD 56.6 million, while the Borgata rose 1.9 percent to USD 71.9 million.

Harrah’s Resort senior vice president Scott Barber credited its jump to a new waterfront expansion, completed in July, that added 960 hotel rooms and casino space, along with new restaurants and stores. It now has nearly 2,600 hotel rooms.

„I think we were able to take advantage of all our expansion efforts,“ Barber said.

The company remains optimistic on prospects throughout the city, Barber said, adding that Harrah’s was able to gain new non-casino revenue streams with the expansion.

Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort suffered the largest slide, with monthly revenue falling 22.8 percent to USD 22.3 million; followed by Trump Marina Hotel Casino, which fell 20 percent to USD 19 million.

Resorts Atlantic City fell 19.7 percent to USD 21.3 million; Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort dropped 19.1 percent to USD 40.6 million; Showboat Casino Hotel fell 11.2 percent to USD 34.5 million; Bally’s Atlantic City dropped 8.2 percent to USD 56.4 million; Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino fell 6.3 percent to USD 25.6 million; and Caesars Atlantic City fell 3.8 percent to USD 56 million.

The Tropicana Casino and Resort, which is still in search of a buyer, was down 5.5 percent to USD 24.8 million.