Atlantic City Records Pre-pandemic Casino Revenue Rise

Atlantic City casinos ended 2019 with increases in both sales and operating profits, but in this current pandemic reality it’s all a distant memory.

Figures released this week by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement  (DGE) show AC’s nine casinos – and two of their standalone online gambling operations – posted a total revenue of almost $740.5 million in the final three months of 2019, up 5.1 percent from the final quarter of 2018.

As expected, with just under $196 m, the Borgata led the revenue list, a small 2 percent increase year-on-year. Second-place went to Hard Rock Atlantic City ($93.8 m, + 15.7 percent), which opened its doors until mid-2018. The biggest gainer was the Ocean Casino Resort ($60.8 m, + 45.4 percent), which also opened in mid-2018 but struggled out of the gate to match the success of the Hard Rock.

Combined gross operating profits increased to $129.2 m by 78.7 percent, despite three casinos reporting negative profit growth in Q4. With $44.6 m, the Borgata claimed top spot, although this was down 1.4 percent year-on-year. Harrah claimed second place ($18.3 m, + 36.3%) while Ocean Casino roared back to profitability with $9.3 m, up from a loss of $22.3 m in Q4 2018.

Total revenue for 2019 as a whole was up 9.5 percent to $3.16b, given the negative revenue growth posted by any casino except Hard Rock and Ocean (and the two digital-only ops). The Borgata fell 1.3 percent to $817 m while the Hard Rock took second with nearly $404 m and the third with $378.5 m to Harrah.

Market-wide annual operating profit increased 5.8 percent to $613.1 million, driven as ever by the Borgata ($209.6 million, + 1.5 percent), with Harrah’s ($90.8 million, -17 percent) and the Tropicana ($86.7 million, -7.2 percent) well behind.

Since mid-March, AC’s casinos have all been shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic gave New Jersey a taste of the back of hand. The March gaming revenue stats were down almost 62 percent year-on-year and April figures will show a big fat goose egg where land-based revenue would have been.

Some AC casinos have started to book hotel reservations tentatively starting June 1, although it is somebody’s guess whether the DGE will allow them to make good on those plans. New Jersey is second only to New York in rates of infection with COVID-19, while Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that the transmission rate for the state is decreasing .

The DGE is expected to release its April sales figures next Wednesday (13) and it will be important to see the impact of the closure on online gambling statistics for the casinos. March set a new $64.8 m record for online casino / poker with poker doubling its February take.