So far, the 2023 Jersey Shore summer tourist season continues to perform better than the 2019 season, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Still, it is a little bit of a disappointment, according to Jane Bokunewicz, director of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism.
“If you look at brick-and-mortar casino gaming revenues, which we often use as an indicator of how well the summer is going, they were down in July, compared to 2022,” she said.
According to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, total gaming revenue in July was up 5.3% to $506.2 million, compared to the same month last year. But brick and mortar casinos saw a 3% decline for the same period. Table game revenue fell by 13.2%, while slot machine revenue increased by less than a percent.
Bokunewicz said she is watching whether internet gambling is cannibalizing in-person gaming. That doesn’t seem to be the case despite online gaming having a higher growth rate.
“We are still seeing, for the most part, aside from July, there was still growth in the brick and mortar segment as well,” she added.
Though the shore hosted events such as the Barefoot Country Music Festival in Wildwood and the inaugural North to Shore music and arts festival in Atlantic City, convention business was also down in July. Last year, Atlantic City benefitted from the NAACP hosting its first in-person convention since 2019 there.
There has also been a decline in the number of domestic tourists.
Bokunewicz cited more people traveling internationally this season as a possible reason for people not traveling locally to the Jersey Shore.
“People may have decided to take their dream vacation, which was on hold for several years, instead of making local trips to the Jersey Shore,” she said.
Another possible reason could be the weather. Statewide precipitation was above average in July, according to the Rutgers N.J. Weather Network.
There is hope that people will travel to the shore for Labor Day weekend, despite it not being the busiest time of year, Bokunewicz said. Beyond the holiday weekend, visitors are expected to flock to the region for events such as the New Jersey Cannabis Convention in Atlantic City and a professional pickleball tournament in Avalon.
Several shore towns have also successfully extended the season into early fall.
Bokunewicz said there is a “good possibility” that business at the shore will finish the season strong.
“There is hope that the remaining quarter of two quarters of the year will be successful,” she said.
Saturdays just got more interesting.