When Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino (its name at the time) opened on the same day in mid-2018, the city’s casino industry jumped from seven properties to nine.
And as it turned out, the “new kids” are alright.
Take January’s revenue figures released Wednesday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
In spite of COVID-19 capacity restrictions, there was a healthy increase in revenue at both properties compared to unrestricted January 2020.
Hard Rock jumped 23.9% to $26.6 million in brick-and-mortar revenue last month, while Ocean (now known as Ocean Casino Resort) similarly climbed 21.3% to $20.5 million.
The boosts moved Hard Rock — third in January 2020 revenue in this category — up to second place behind perennial leader Borgata, which easily led at $38.3 million in spite of a 30.6% year-over-year decline vs the previous January.
Look out behind you, Borgata?
Worth noting is that Borgata’s $33.2 million edge a year ago on Hard Rock declined to a mere $11.6 million last month.
Ocean, meanwhile, jumped from sixth to third place in January revenue, while Harrah’s tumbled all the way from third to seventh at $14.7 million, a city-worst 37.7% decline.
In an ideal world, the gains for Hard Rock, which opened at the former Trump Taj Mahal site, and Ocean, the successor to ill-fated Revel, would come from an expanding “pie” of gamblers. But that wasn’t the case, as brick-and-mortar industry revenue declined year-over-year by 16.6% and six of the other seven casinos were saddled with double-digit declines.
Tropicana ($15.6 million) and Caesars ($15.5 million) maintained their spots in fourth and fifth place, with Caesars’ 8.8% decline the most palatable figure among the “losers.”
Resorts ($10.4 million) and Golden Nugget ($10 million) swapped the seventh and eight spots, while Bally’s again claimed the basement ($8.6 million) even while under new management.
Did AC casinos win or lose in January?
The online casino gaming and sports betting revenues — more than 90% of the latter coming from mobile apps — left the DGE listing the industry’s overall January 2021 revenue as up 15.3% to $346.4 million.
But as Hard Rock’s Joe Lupo and other Atlantic City casino executives have pointed out, the latter two revenue sources are shared extensively with the casinos’ partners, while the brick-and-mortar revenue is theirs to keep.
Last month, the land-based revenue accounted for less than half the overall amount earned.
“There is so much help that we really need with these properties,” Lupo said in a radio interview last month. “We need to see the city revitalized, and it’s not going to happen when the media is reporting increases when they add in online revenue that is going to third-party companies that don’t have any stake in the game.”
Online poker now down to just a relative “rounding error”
Online poker — a natural beneficiary of most Atlantic City casinos having closed their on-site poker rooms during the pandemic — was up 50% last month to $2.7 million.
Poker was the lobbying focus a decade ago when operators advocated for online casino gaming legalization, and those efforts bore fruit with the public launch of such entertainment options in November 2013.
But other online games such as slots, blackjack, and roulette immediately overtook online poker, and the gap has grown exponentially the past few years.
Last month, a record $103.7 million in online revenue was raked in by Atlantic City’s casinos and their online partners, leaving the contribution of online poker as little more than a rounding error.
Contrast that with January 2018, when poker’s $2 million was coupled with the industry’s $20 million from all other online casino games.
In January 2015, poker was at $2.3 million vs. just $9.3 million from other online casino gaming. Poker has danced above and below that $2 million figure almost from the start, while “non-peer-to-peer” gaming revenue from slots, blackjack, and the rest has soared beyond even the most optimistic expectations.