Hard Rock And Ocean Casino Closed Out 2019 Strong, New Numbers Show

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Atlantic City casino operators enjoyed “one more for the road” in terms of gross profits in the fourth quarter, according to figures released on Thursday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The numbers were delayed for a month due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and reflect the last clear quarter before the disaster. While the casinos were only closed for the last two weeks of the first quarter of 2020, that period will reflect the absence of the March Madness NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the opening days of scheduled Yankees, Mets, and Phillies regular season baseball action.

The final quarter of 2019 produced $129.2 million in profits for the industry, an increase of 79% over the final quarter of 2018.

The big gainers were relative newcomers Hard Rock and Ocean Casino. The revamped versions of Trump Taj Mahal and Revel, respectively, were in only their second quarter of operation in late 2018.

With a full year under their belt, Hard Rock jumped from nearly $15 million in losses to $9 million in profits to close out 2019. Ocean pulled off similar profits to contrast with a $22 million deficit from the last quarter of 2018.

Unfortunately, those boosts accounted for nearly all of the industry’s year-to-year gain. And looking at all of 2019 vs. the previous years, gains were relatively modest — up 5.8% to $613 million.

Borgata, the market leader since it opened in 2003, again enjoyed more than one-third of the industry’s profits at $210 million. Harrah’s remained second at $91 million and Tropicana again claimed third, at $87 million.

AC holdovers went flat in 2019

But year-over-year and aside from Hard Rock and Ocean finding their feet, only Golden Nugget (up 5%) and Borgata (up 2%) saw increases in 2019 gross operating profits.

Borgata produced more than half of the industry’s profits in the last quarter of 2018 but could only claim one-third of same in late 2019 as the newer properties asserted their place.

The biggest loser for the year was Bally’s — now on the verge of being sold to Twin River — which saw profits decline 31% to $28 million.

The industry’s hotel room occupancy rate declined modestly from 80.4% in 2018 to 78.9% in 2019.

Ocean Casino, which seems in many ways to be on the rebound, last year could boast of both the highest average room rate, $180.70, and the highest occupancy rate, 85.3%.

Looking for a deal? The average room rate at Resorts — Atlantic City’s oldest property — was just $94.63, barely half of what fellow Boardwalk property Ocean was charging.

The massive Borgata property, meanwhile, lapped the field with 822,046 occupied room nights.

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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