Borgata Again Was King Among Atlantic City Casinos In 2021

MGM property maintains its long winning streak in leading gambling revenue
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Borgata, the so-called “first Las Vegas-style casino in Atlantic City” when it opened in 2003, continued to have no peer on the South Jersey island last year.

A hefty $606 million in brick-and-mortar gambling revenue far outpaced a pair of mid-2018 newcomers in Hard Rock ($431.1 million) and Ocean Casino ($306.8 million) and the six other casinos, according to the numbers released Friday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The “second tier” consisted of Harrah’s ($266.3 million), Tropicana ($253.3 million), and Caesars ($237 million) — each of the three properties that are owned by Caesars Entertainment.

Resorts, the first legal casino outside of Nevada when it opened in 1978, claimed seventh place at $166 million, followed by Golden Nugget ($147.2 million) and Bally’s ($140.7 million).

The pecking order perfectly mirrors the results of 2020, although the results were brighter — a collective $2.55 billion in revenue compared to $1.51 billion in COVID-ravaged 2020, when the casinos closed their doors from mid-March until July 4 weekend.

Analysis of the year that was

“Atlantic City’s casinos came into 2021 with nearly 6 months experience of operating under pandemic conditions,” Jane Bokunewicz, faculty director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism, Stockton University School of Business, said in a statement.

“The health and safety protocols implemented in 2020, and refined throughout 2021, helped support a return to in-person play for casino patrons and improve brick-and-mortar gaming revenues especially in the third quarter. These protocols were not enough to wholly overcome the impacts of the pandemic, but succeeded in bringing year-end brick and mortar gaming revenues to within 5% of year-end 2019 totals.

“Atlantic City’s casino industry, like the region’s gaming hospitality and tourism businesses overall, has proven resilient — but still vulnerable to fluctuations in COVID-19 infection rates and caseloads. In some months of 2021, like this past December, brick-and-mortar gaming revenues surpassed 2019 levels, while in others revenues lingered behind.

“Even as other sectors of the gaming business, internet gaming especially, show significant and steady revenue growth, coronavirus surges and waves like the Delta and Omicron variants continue to prove an obstacle to sustained recovery for Atlantic City’s brick-and-mortar casino operations. So while months like December 2021 are encouraging, they are not yet the norm. We likely will not see a full recovery of the industry until pandemic conditions stabilize.”

Looking back at ‘normal’ 2019

Borgata also ruled the roost, as usual, in pre-COVID 2019, at $709.6 million. Hard Rock ($324 million)  again was second in just its second year of operation, but the third spot that year went to Harrah’s at $312 million.

Tropicana ($302.9 million) claimed fourth in 2019, with Caesars ($271 million) taking fifth ahead of newcomer Ocean Casino ($215.7 million).

The bottom tier had the same trio as 2020 and 2021, but Golden Nugget ($199 million) was ahead of Resorts ($176.4 million) for seventh while Bally’s trailed the field at $176 million.

Online poker faded in 2021 to just $29.9 million, after a record $38.8 million the previous year. Still, the latest numbers beat 2019 ($20.9 million) and 2018 ($21.4 million).

The state collected $485.7 million in non-horse racing gambling tax revenue in 2021 — $177.8 million from retail casino play (8% tax rate); $6.5 million from retail sports betting at casinos and racetracks (8.5% rate); $205.2 million from online casino (15%); and $96.2 million from mobile sports betting (13%).

Photo: Shutterstock

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