Atlantic City casinos bracing for lean March due to COVID-19

Atlantic City casinos posted strong revenue figures for 2019 and maintained that trend with solid numbers in January and February. However, the New Jersey gaming market will take a hit in March, and maybe beyond, due to the coronavirus issue.

Last month the NJ gambling industry had a revenue increase of 18.4% over February 2019. This was likely helped by the leap year in 2020, which gave February a fifth Saturday. That year-on-year increase continued the growth that has happened every month since June 2018 when the Hard Rock Casino and Ocean Casino Resort opened. While it has been challenging for the casino operators with two more properties in the mix, it has been advantageous for New Jersey with more tax revenue and more jobs.

In February the revenue for slot and table games increased 11% to $218.3 million, with online casino gaming revenue bringing in $52 million and sports betting revenue bringing in $17 million. Online poker took in only $1.8 million last month while all other online casino gaming took in $50.2 million, which is a year-on-year increase of over two-thirds.

In terms of the land-based operations, Ocean Casino Resort had the biggest increase of 51% with a figure of $20.8 million. The boost pushed Ocean to sixth place, passing Resorts and Golden Nugget. Ocean CEO Terry Glebocki reported that revenue from slot games increased by 88%.

Borgata Casino is still the market leader with an increase of 13.7% to $57.6 million, which is more than the combined figures for the next two casinos in the rankings. Resorts fell to eighth place last month with $14.5 million and Bally’s came in last at $12 million.

Golden Nugget is still the leader of the pack in terms of New Jersey online casinos, accounting for $20 million of the $52 million in total revenue for that vertical.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the numbers for March will not come close to those recorded in February. Atlantic City casinos all shut their doors for business at 8pm on Monday, March 16.

New Jersey casinos had about two weeks of gambling this month before the mandated closures. The firms may recoup losses as more players focus on gambling online, as land-based players that were hesitant to download mobile casino apps may now do so. Sports bettors do not have many options with most major events and leagues suspended, and it may be that those gamblers venture into online casino gambling to fill the void. With all of these factors, this March may reach only half of the total of $294 million posted for the same month last year.

The COVID-19 crisis is likely to affect New Jersey gambling revenue for several months. With nine casinos now operating in Atlantic City, many industry experts believed the market was already saturated. The longer the coronavirus issue hinders business at NJ casinos, the greater the possibility that one or more properties will not survive.

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