Great news for Pennsylvanians who like to play table games, bad news for Atlantic City, as Pennsylvania has, to no one’s surprise, approved table gaming. Here’s the reaction from the AC Press:
Pennsylvania’s slot parlors won’t stop at table games as they prepare to evolve into Atlantic City-style resort casinos in a fierce battle with New Jersey for gambling customers.Blackjack, craps, poker and other games will help generate revenue for construction of new hotel towers, retail shops, restaurants, spas and nightclubs — which in turn will broaden the appeal of the Pennsylvania gaming market, casino executives say.
Previously, Atlantic City casino executives had mocked Pennsylvania’s slots-only gaming parlors as “one dimensional.”Much is at stake in the competition between Atlantic City and Pennsylvania. Table games generated $1.4 billion in revenue in 2008, about 30 percent of Atlantic City’s overall take of $4.5 billion. The remaining 70 percent, or $3.1 billion, came from slot machines.
Atlantic City’s revenue figures for 2009 will be announced Monday, though Atlantic City already is hurting from competition from Pennsylvania for slot customers and the weak economy. Through the first 11 months of 2009, the city’s gaming revenue fell 13.5 percent, to nearly $3.7 billion.
via Tables turn in Pennsylvania’s favor: Casinos hope to attract more players with better games – pressofAtlanticCity.com : Atlantic City.
You can find more details of the bill at Gaming Today. Basically, racinos and slot parlors will be able to add 250 games (for reference, the standard Strip casino has 80-100) and the resort casinos can have 50 tables, but can add more slot machines.
Atlantic City has until the summer, or maybe the fall, before the first cards are dealt. The clock is ticking. Unless the casinos can develop some kind of attraction that the Pennsylvania casinos don’t have, or can somehow deliver a customer experience that would justify the extra hour drive and expressway tolls, they can consider the Pennsylvania market–and maybe parts of New Jersey and New York–lost.
There’s a very real possibility that Atlantic City will become a local gaming hub for New Jersey and a few nostalgic Philadelphians.
For a while in the early 1980s, Atlantic City was out-earning the Las Vegas Strip in gaming revenue and visitation, and was being hailed as the up-and-comer. Then as the Strip pulled ahead, it settled into a position as “the casino capital of the East,” with pretty much everything east of the Mississippi potentially feeding it. Then the spread of Indian and riverboat casinos started cutting into that market–Delaware racinos and Connecticut Indian casinos most remarkably.
In the early 1990s a few innovations–24-hour gambling, poker, and keno were the biggest–gave the city’s casinos something new. In 2003 the opening of the Borgata proved that Vegas-style resorts could work. Still, revenue and visitation numbers have been declining. Here are some figures from UNLV’s Atlantic City casino page:
Total Resort Revenues (Gaming+Non-Gaming)
Year Total win Slot win Table win
2001 4.3 billion 3.1 billion 1.2 billion
2002 4.2 billion 3.3 billion 1.1 billion
2003 4.5 billion 3.3 billion 1.2 billion
2004 4.8 billion 3.6 billion 1.3 billion
2005 5.0 billion 3.7 billion 1.3 billion
2006 5.2 billion 3.8 billion 1.4 billion
2007 4.9 billion 3.5 billion 1.5 billion
2008 4.5 billion 3.1 billion 1.4 billion
2009 about 4.0 billion? (rough mathematical projection based on 11 months at $3.7 billion)
You’ll notice that visitation has declined since 2005, and total revenues have declined since 2006, which makes this a pre-recession problem.
In the last table, you’ll see that slot machine win has fallen to 2001 levels, offset slightly by an increase since then in table game revenues, which is attributable to the competition from Pennsylvania slots after 2007. Pennsylvania tables will undoubtedly cut into the AC table game win in 2010, so it’s possible that the industry will fall well below 2000-era revenue levels. Nevada, by comparison, is back to 2004/05 gaming revenue levels right now.
At this rate, Atlantic City’s going to end up in the stone age in ten years.