Atlantic City gambling revenue fell nearly 13 percent in September, despite the return of the Miss America competition that brought thousands of people to the city after the height of the summer season.
Tourism officials have touted the positive publicity Miss America brought to the city, but only one of the resort’s 12 casinos posted a monthly increase in gambling revenue. Atlantic Club Casino Hotel saw a gain of 4 percent to $12.3 million, while Caesars Atlantic City and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino took the biggest hits with losses of nearly 29 percent and 28 percent respectively.
Altogether, the resort’s casino industry posted $240.2 million in slot and table game revenue in September, according to statistics released Thursday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Slot winnings fell nearly 11 percent to $177.3 million while table game revenue slipped nearly 19 percent to $62.9 million.
Atlantic Club has a rebranded itself as a low-cost casino offering customers the best deal. That marketing campaign appears to be working, said Michael Frawley, the casino’s chief operating officer. In the year-to-date, Atlantic Club is up 11 percent in total casino win.
“The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel is obviously pleased with September’s performance. We believe that September and year to date gains within a challenged market speak clearly to the momentum of our “best deal in Atlantic City” strategy,” Frawley said.
Opinions had been mixed on how much of an impact the return of Miss America might have on Atlantic City’s gambling revenue. The four nights of competition at Boardwalk Hall attracted a live audience of 20,593 people, according to the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority Division of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
The Atlantic City Alliance has said the competition’s impact through the publicity the city has gotten and other means that are difficult to measure. At least one study used to justify subsidies provided to the Miss America Organization suggested visitors coming to Atlantic City for the competition and parade would spend $15 million on gambling.
The competition, which returned to the resort this year for the first time since 2004, traditionally had not created a major gambling impact, but unlike years past many casinos embraced the competition.
Mark Giannantonio, president and chief executive officer of Resorts, said he was pleased with the September numbers event despite Resorts nearly 3 percent decline; the casino, which added a $35 million Margaritaville complex earlier this year, did see a 10 percent increase in slot revenue. Giannantonio attributed that gain to the upgrades made to property in the Margaritaville expansion, including outfitting the casino floor with Jimmy Buffett’s signature island-themed slot machines.
“We’re quite happy with our overall volume increases,” Giannantonio said. “The problem with what’s happening right now is that you have an industry that’s declining 12.9 percent overall. Considering that and everything we’re doing here, I think the momentum is continuing.”
Joe Lupo, senior vice president of operations for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, said the market’s double-digit decline in September underscores the fierce competition Atlantic City faces from new casinos in New York in Maryland. Some of those challenges “were masked” by the city’s peak summer season, but have revealed themselves again now that the post-Labor Day slowdown has begun, he noted.
Lupo also said the impact of September’s unfriendly calendar could not be overstated. Having the Saturday of Labor Day weekend fall in August this year seriously affected the revenue results for September, he stressed.
“Taking away the Saturday in Labor Day was impactful,” he said. “There aren’t many days that, singularly, have a greater impact.”
Lupo blamed Borgata’s 6.5 percent revenue decline for the month on the missing Saturday. Still, Borgata led the industry with $51.8 million in gambling revenue and was able to increase its market share for poker to a record 64 percent, he said. Borgata held two major poker tournaments in September — one that drew a record crowd of 4,000 players and the other a nearly $4 million World Poker Tour championship.
Staff Writer Donald Wittkowski contributed to this report.
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