National survey: Pa. gaming revenue up, N.J. down

An annual study of the national gambling market shows Pennsylvania casinos grew 21 percent last year while New Jersey gaming halls continued to struggle.

The American Gaming Association says New Jersey saw the largest decline in casino revenues and taxes of any state during 2011. Revenues fell seven percent.

The Garden State, number two on the list of largest American gaming markets after Nevada, faces new competition from neighboring states,including Pennsylvania and Delaware. Pennsylvania saw a jump in casino revenue of 21 percent.

Generally, casino revenues were up up nationally last year, which the report attributes to the country’s gradual economic recovery. Frank Farenkoff of the American Gaming Association says it’s not unusual to see wide swings in the numbers in local regions.

“New casinos usually tend to increase revenue because new people are curious and will go and visit, and in other areas there may be an economic downturn,” said Farenkoff.

Atlantic City’s latest casino-resort, Revel, has seen relatively low revenues since its “soft opening” last month. Revel has yet to open all of its hotel rooms, and Farenkoff expects its fortunes will rise this summer. Farenkoff says not to count out Atlantic City yet. He believes casinos can co-exist in close proximity, comparing the entertainment venues to the proliferation of coffee shops in range of his Washington, D.C. office.

“Now when are there too many Starbucks?” asked Farenkoff. “Well the market will tell us when there are too many Starbucks. The same things is true in the gaming industry as in any other industry, and right now, many experts feel that particularly the Northeast, which would include Pennsylvania, is underserved with regard to the demand for gaming entertainment.”

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