Atlantic City gambling revenue fell nearly 11 percent in March, marking the third straight month of double-digit declines in a market still hurting from Hurricane Sandy and intense competition from casinos in surrounding states.
Altogether, the 12 casino hotels took in $238.5 million from their slot machines and table games, down 10.5 percent compared to $266.5 million a year ago, according to figures released Wednesday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Only the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel posted higher revenue in March, buoyed by a 37 percent increase from its slot machines. Atlantic Club is being bought by the parent company of online global gambling giant PokerStars for an amount not yet disclosed.
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino continues as the industry’s poorest performer. It had just $6.8 million in revenue for March, a 31 percent drop from a year ago. The California-based Meruelo Group is buying Trump Plaza for $20 million and plans to spend more than $100 million to rebrand the aging property.
Revel, the city’s newest casino, grossed just $9.8 million in March, placing it 10th in the market and providing fresh evidence of the $2.4 billion megaresort’s financial challenges as it moves ahead with its bankruptcy reorganization.
Jeffrey Hartmann, Revel’s interim chief executive officer, said he was encouraged by the casino’s 9 percent growth in gambling revenue from February to March as well as an increase in hotel sales from group business.
“In groups, we saw 29 percent growth year-over-year for contracted room nights, and in the month of March, we hosted nearly 1,800 group room nights,” he said.
Hartmann noted that Revel also has benefited from its entertainment lineup, including two nearly sold-out crowds in March for mixed martial arts shows in the 5,000-seat Ovation Hall. This month, Revel will host concerts by Grammy Award-winning artists Alicia Keys and Rihanna.
Casinos have been counting on nongambling attractions, such as hotel rooms, restaurants and concerts, to offset declining revenue from slot machines and table games. Year-end figures released last week by the Division of Gaming Enforcement showed nearly 3 percent growth in nongambling revenue in 2012. Nongambling attractions generated $1.26 billion in revenue in 2012, or 29 percent of the casino industry’s $4.3 billion in total revenue.
However, Atlantic City still can’t shake its slump in gambling revenue. Overall, the market continues to struggle from the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy, the fragile economy and competition from rival casinos in surrounding states, particularly Pennsylvania. Officials noted during a Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce gathering Tuesday that the resort has not fully recovered from Sandy’s blow in October.
For the first three months of 2013, gambling revenue has declined 12 percent, to $656 million. Barring a dramatic upswing later in the year, 2013 will be the seventh consecutive year of declining revenue.
Hoping to generate more business, the casino-funded Atlantic City Alliance marketing coalition is launching the newest phase of its $20 million “Do AC” advertising campaign for the spring and summer tourist season. Liza Cartmell, the alliance’s president, acknowledged the challenges Atlantic City faces in the ultra-competitive tourism industry.
“It’s a very competitive marketplace for people’s dollars and their time,” Cartmell said.
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