Atlantic City casinos ‘bullish’ on growth for the rest of the year

File photo: A woman plays a slot machine at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City N.J. in this July  2, 2020 file photo. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, FILE)

File photo: A woman plays a slot machine at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City N.J. in this July 2, 2020 file photo. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, FILE)

The gambling industry in Atlantic City is continuing their upward trend as February continues the resort town’s win streak. There is hope that operators will return to pre-pandemic business by the Spring.

“The COVID numbers are way down, the weather’s starting to get nicer [and] people are anxious to get out again,” said Jane Bokunewicz, director of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism. “I think that we will see an upward trend.”

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement reported that casinos in Atlantic City generated $212.4 million for February, a 43.3% increase compared to last year. Internet gaming made $130 million, a 38.6% increase.

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But sports wagering booked a 33.2% decrease in revenue. It generated $30.9 million compared to $46.2 million in February 2021. The amount of bets placed, or handles,  in New Jersey increased, but fell below $1 billion for the first time since September 2021. Bokunewicz noted that the numbers followed a similar pattern in previous years and is not an indication of increased competition from New York operators.

Still, she said, the combination of holiday weekends in February and the public having less concerns about the pandemic, may have given casinos a boost. Though the numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels.

“If you look at brick and mortar casinos, revenue alone, it was below 2020; before the pandemic hit,” she said while comparing February numbers to the same period two years ago. “It still was a good result.”

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Still, total gaming revenue – casinos, internet gaming and sports wagering – increased by 19% so far this year. While the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused gas prices to increase, Bokunewicz said Atlantic City may see an increase in visitors who wish to travel close to home. She adds that casino leaders during a recent industry panel said they expect growth to continue.

“All of the casino CEOs on the panel did feel bullish about the upcoming season for brick and mortar gaming,” she said, adding that operators have made commitments to in-person gaming through investments to improve and expand offerings on their properties.

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