There’s another negative milestone for Atlantic City slots: in December, they got less play than slots in Pennsylvania. From the AC Press:
Gamblers are putting more money into slot machines in Pennsylvania than they are in Atlantic City.The Gaming Industry Observer says December was the first month ever that slot-machine handle in Pennsylvania surpassed Atlantic City's.
Editor Joseph Weinert calls it a milestone that is a result of declining slots play in New Jersey and rising slots play in Pennsylvania.The difference was $2.1 billion in Pennsylvania to about $2 billion in New Jersey. On top of that, Weinert is forecasting an increase in Pennsylvania's slots revenue in 2010 and a drop in Atlantic City's.
However, Atlantic City casinos brought in more money total because of table games revenue there. Pennsylvania just legalized table games earlier this month.
There were some interesting comments on the article, including one about parking that says pretty much what I’ve been saying for a while, namely that Atlantic City casinos should not charge for parking. If you are driving to Atlantic City from the Philadelphia area, here are the tolls you’ll pay: $4 to get back into Philly, $6 roundtrip at the Egg Harbor toll plaza, and $1.50 roundtrip at the Pleasantville toll plaza. That’s $11.50, just to get to town. Factor in gas (probably 5-6 gallons, roundtrip, at $3 per) for another $15 or so. Then add a parking charge that can be as high as $25 if there’s a convention in town. We’ve got $27.50 total driving costs before the parking, and then another $5 to $25 on top of that. At a minimum, that’s $32.50 or so that the patron has spent to get to your casino.
Why should they pay more and spend more time getting to Atlantic City when they can get to a PA casino quicker? Even if they have fewer comps, they’ve just saved themselves the cost of a meal by cutting out those driving costs.
If I was running an AC casino’s marketing department, I’d seriously consider giving anyone with a PA driver’s license $30 in freeplay just for walking through the door and comp their parking. That might make it worth their while to make the drive. Sure, it’s a big giveaway, but at this point it should be clear that it’s necessary.
PA slot casinos have an effective tax rate of 55%. AC casinos have an effective tax rate of about 9%. Shouldn’t they be able to offer a better experience to players if they invest part of the 46 cents on the dollar more that they keep back into the facility or into marketing?