Atlantic City’s Casino Rebound Continued In 2019, Revenues Up For Fourth Straight Year

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The arc of the Atlantic City casino industry has been remarkably consistent since Resorts opened its doors in 1978 as the first legal casino outside of the state of Nevada.

Industry revenues climbed every year without fail through 2006, reaching a pinnacle of $5.2 billion that doubled the mark of two decades earlier.

Then casinos opened in Pennsylvania and a worldwide economic collapse ensued, and Atlantic City hit a rapid annual decline that left the industry back down to just $2.6 billion in revenues in 2015.

Fortunately, that now appears likely to be an all-time bottom, given the figures released by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement on Tuesday.

Revenues not only were up for a fourth straight year; the $3.47 billion figure was the industry’s highest since 2010 — a 20% increase over 2018. That’s the first double-digit increase in 35 years.

Much of the rise was due to a 62% increase in revenue from online casino gaming, and a first full year of sports betting revenue of $299 million.

But importantly, traditional brick-and-mortar casino revenues were up 7%, to $2.7 billion.

Too many casinos?

One concern about the industry that continued in 2019 was that the addition of two new casinos in mid-2018 — Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort — has led to some cannibalization of revenues.

That is seen in drops in revenue in 2019 — though all by single-digit margins — by Tropicana, Harrah’s, Bally’s, Caesars, and Resorts.

Market standout Borgata was up 3.5% in 2019 to $798 mm, and a boom year for Golden Nugget boosted it to No. 2 in the industry at $378 mm for a jump of 15.4%.

In its first full year, Hard Rock won $350 mm, while Tropicana did the same. Harrah’s checked in at $313 mm, Caesars did $271 mm, Ocean earned $238 mm, Bally’s finished at $182 mm, and Resorts settled for $178 mm.

Profits also have taken a hit in this nine-casino era. While full-year numbers are not yet available, the gross operating profits through the first nine months of 2019 are down nearly 5% from that same time frame of 2018.

Online poker — whose industry was a key force in achieving legalization of online casino gaming in the state in 2013 — produced another tepid year in 2019. Revenues were a mere $20.9 mm, down 2% from 2018 and now a mere blip in the overall online casino gaming revenue of $483 million.

Slot machine revenue, however, was up 6.7% to $1.9 billion while table game win rose 7.7% to $765 million.

Ocean doing well in December

For the past month, Ocean Casino’s revenues climbed to $20.9 million — a 75% boost from December 2018 as the former Revel property continues to assert its case as a longtime player in the industry.

After finishing last in monthly totals just over a year ago, Ocean passed Bally’s, Caesars, Golden Nugget, and Resorts in December 2019.

Photo by Racheal Grazias / Shutterstock.com

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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