ATLANTIC CITY — Some unusually mild weather, a friendly calendar and a little boost from Atlantic City’s newest casino were not enough to push gambling revenue higher in March.
Citywide, revenue from the slot machines and table games at the 12 casinos fell 5 percent to $266.3 million, compared to $280.5 million a year ago, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported Tuesday. Slot revenue declined 3 percent to $191.1 million, while winnings at the table games were off nearly 11 percent to $75.2 million.
Revel, the new $2.4 billion megaresort, contributed to the revenue total for the first time. Revel held three “play days” in late March that served as a dress rehearsal for the casino’s official opening April 2. The play days generated nearly $163,000 in gambling revenue, helping to slightly pad the industry’s March total. Revel’s first full month of revenue will be reflected in April’s results.
Industry executives had hoped that March’s pleasant, tourist-friendly weather and two more weekend days compared to last year would drive casino revenue upward. But the revenue decline indicates Atlantic City continues to struggle with the sluggish economy and against casino competitors in surrounding states.
“With two extra weekend days and the fabulous weather, I’m really disappointed that the market had a decline,” said Tony Rodio, president and chief executive officer of Tropicana Casino and Resort. “It’s the regional competition and the economy. It’s extremely disappointing.”
Joe Lupo, senior vice president of operations at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, also cited the weak economy. He also said the rival Pennsylvania casinos have been spending heavily on promotional giveaways to draw customers away from Atlantic City.
“I think we’re still seeing the effects from the recession,” Lupo said. “I also think that the Pennsylvania market is still continuing to invest at an extremely high rate.”
Through the first three months this year, Atlantic City’s casinos have won $746 million, a 6 percent decline from the same period in 2011. Revenue from slot machines is down 2 percent for the year, while table games win is off 14 percent.
Tropicana, Borgata, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Golden Nugget Atlantic City were the only properties that had higher revenue in March. The Taj led the market with 17 percent growth overall, including a 60 percent jump in table games revenue.
Brian Cahill, a spokesman for Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., did not respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment about the Taj’s results. The company’s other casino, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, suffered a 23 percent decline overall for the month, including a 46 percent slump in table games revenue.
Tom Pohlman, general manager of Golden Nugget, pointed to his casino’s $150 million renovation and rebranding as the main reason for revenue growth in March. Overall, Golden Nugget was up nearly 7 percent. Golden Nugget has nearly finished its transformation from the property’s former days as Trump Marina Hotel Casino.
“The redevelopment and transformation of the property are driving bodies to the property,” Pohlman said.
While disappointed with the market’s overall results, Rodio said he was pleased that Tropicana posted a nearly 18 percent increase in slot revenue for March. Tropicana led the market in slots growth.
“I couldn’t be more ecstatic with our results,” Rodio said. “The things we continue to do here to rejuvenate Tropicana continue to bear results. This place has so much energy and vitality. I’m ecstatic with the whole team here.”
Borgata’s slot results were flat in March, but Lupo was heartened by the casino’s nearly 13 percent growth in table games revenue. Borgata, the city’s top-grossing casino, pulled in $54 million in total gambling revenue in March, a 4 percent increase over last year.
The two worst performers in March were Resorts Casino Hotel and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, each down more than 25 percent. Both casinos were hit by big drops in table games revenue.
Atlantic Club, formerly known as the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort, rebranded itself in March with a new name and a new low-cost marketing strategy in hopes of reviving the property. Resorts has been trying to recover from the Feb. 24 death of former CEO Dennis Gomes.
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