Five days a week, Nicholas Delaney would dutifully head over to the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort’s simulcasting parlor to bet on horse races televised from tracks across the country.
“It’s been a second home to me,” explained the 76-year-old Delaney, whose full-time residence is the Best of Life apartment complex next door to the Taj Mahal.
The retired Delaney now must look for another place where he can spend his leisure time studying the horses, jockeys and trainers in hopes of picking the winners. Taj Mahal became the latest Atlantic City casino to get out of the simulcasting business when it closed its racing operation Sunday.
An aging customer base and the troubled horseracing industry have been threatening casino simulcast parlors for years. With the Taj Mahal dropping out, only five of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos currently operate simulcast rooms.
Trump officials did not comment on the shutdown, but others noted that the waning popularity of simulcasting in Atlantic City mirrors the declining interest in horseracing nationwide.
“It just doesn’t grab people like it used to,” said Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
On Saturday morning, James Dallmeyer, 75, gazed at the few white-haired bettors who were at the Taj Mahal’s simulcast parlor for the final weekend. Dallmeyer, who would visit the simulcast room about three times per week, said the casino slot machines and table games hold more appeal for younger people than the horses.
“I would say that the younger people don’t have the money or the interest to participate in this form of gambling,” said Dallmeyer, a retiree from Whiting, Ocean County. “It’s a tradition among us older men to gamble here. My preference is to gamble on the horses instead of on a slot machine.
Stocked with TV screens, simulcasting parlors feature races carried live from tracks nationwide. Simulcasting represents the only legal form of sports betting in Atlantic City. Its decline comes at the same time that New Jersey is pushing to get other forms of sports betting legalized for the casinos.
However, New Jersey recently lost a court battle to overturn a federal law that restricts sports betting to Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. Those states had a form of sports betting on the books before a 1992 federal law banned it elsewhere. New Jersey officials are appealing the ruling that continues the ban in this state.
When simulcasting began in Atlantic City 20 years ago, the gambling industry thought that casinos and horseracing would be a winning combination. Simulcasting created another betting option for people who were already playing the slot machines and table games. For the casinos, they get a cut of the action on bets placed on races broadcast at their simulcasting rooms.
Simulcasting revenue was just $5.4 million at the six casinos that offered racing in 2012, the third straight year of declining figures. The 2012 revenue was nowhere near the industry’s high of $12.5 million for simulcasting in 1998.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa dominates Atlantic City’s simulcasting operations, grossing $2.4 million last year, figures show. With the Taj Mahal now gone, only Borgata, Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat Casino Hotel offer simulcasting.
None of the remaining casinos grossed more than $1 million from simulcasting last year. The Taj Mahal had just $533,648 in simulcasting revenue, according to figures compiled by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Although Trump officials would not comment on the reason for the simulcasting shutdown, the company said in papers filed with the division that the Taj Mahal will now use the space for poker and keno. The simulcast parlor was located in the corner of the Taj’s poker room.
For the Taj’s racing aficionados such as Delaney and Dallmeyer, they will now have to look elsewhere for their betting action. Delaney squeezed in a few wagers on Saturday morning, knowing that his self-described second home was about to close.
“I’ve been gambling here for 20 years. I’m going to be very sad to see this place close,” said Delaney, who was wearing a cap and a jacket emblazoned with a Taj Mahal logo. “I guess I will go to the Showboat now.”