Atlantic City casino worries

For the first time since 1978, the year casino gambling began in Atlantic City, casino officials fear revenue could fall. Each and every year since gambling began in Atlantic City revenue has been on the up but it seems as though increased competition and the new smoking ban has had a marked effect on the area.

The first monthly revenue figures of this year were down, leading to concerns that this may continue throughout the year and have much wider implications in New Jersey as a whole. Overall casino revenue figures are down by 2.9 percent from the previous year, though more worryingly revenue in slots, usually the game that reaps the most revenue for a casino, was down by seven per cent.

"There will be an impact, no doubt," said Carlos Tolosa, eastern division president for Harrah's Entertainment Inc.

"The Pennsylvania slots parlours will certainly cause competition. In the past, people just came to Atlantic City. That's the part that always scares you. Atlantic City relies on high-frequency customers."

Many experts and observers believe that Atlantic City must change and expand into a town that offers more than gambling.

"Clearly, Atlantic City recognizes that for its overall revenue to grow, it has to become less gaming-centric," said Joseph Weinert, vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group, a consultant group to the casino industry.

"A majority of Atlantic City's customers will be able to play slots somewhere closer to home. Atlantic City has to give them a compelling reason to drive farther, stay longer and spend more."

There are currently eleven casinos in Atlantic City after last Novembers closure of The Sands Casino and Hotel and one analyst believes a casino must takes its place.

"Some of that money will flow to other casinos, but some of it won't be recovered until another property takes its place," said Frank Fantini, publisher of The Gaming Morning Report.

The new smoking ban, which stipulates that three-quarters of casino floors must be smoke-free by April 15, is also likely to have a detrimental effect on casinos. Casino officials battled hard to reduce the scope of the ban, fearing a drop of 20 per cent in revenue. However, with calls for a full ban to be implemented, Atlantic City will face increased pressure to adapt if it wants to remain the casino force it currently is.

Editor, - 2007-02-19 11:42:55

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