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4th Straight Year Of Bad News For AC Casinos

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — This time last year, Atlantic City’s 11 casinos had just completed their third straight rotten year, with revenue and market share plunging and no end in sight.

A year later, the numbers are even worse: The nation’s second-largest gambling market has lost nearly a third of its business to nearby competitors over the past four years.

As year-end figures for 2010 are released Monday afternoon, New Jersey lawmakers are preparing radical surgery for the ailing patient. Key parts of Gov. Chris Christie’s Atlantic City turnaround plan are due for votes in the state Assembly, offering hope that 2011 might be the year in which the bleeding finally stops.

They include a state-run tourism district in the casino zone and less regulation for the gambling halls.

“This is the year I actually look at the glass as being half-full,” said Bob Griffin, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns three casinos here.

He predicted the first nine months of 2011 will continue to show revenue declines, but believes that Atlantic City will finally show some revenue growth in the fourth quarter.

Don Marrandino, eastern regional president of Caesars Entertainment, said the Atlantic City legislation being considered Monday will help the struggling resort shake off its losing streak.

“The governor’s stuff is going to give us some relief,” he said.

“We took a big punch, but there are some positives,” Marrandino said. “Retail business has grown dramatically. More people are paying for hotel rooms and spas. Restaurant concepts continue to work their way into the market.

“It’s been a banner year for entertainment,” he added. “Boardwalk Hall was one of the top grossing mid-sized halls in the country. Boxing matches do well here. We had a tennis match that was the highest-attended in the state.”

Atlantic City’s troubles began shortly after the first slots parlor opened in the Philadelphia suburbs in Nov. 2006. Within months, the resort’s revenues plunged as day-tripping slots players — who account for a major portion of Atlantic City’s customers— found they could play closer to home.

After watching its casino revenues go straight up for 28 years, Atlantic City had its first-ever down year in 2007. Casino bosses wished it away as a one-year aberration, and predicted things would rebound in 2008.

They didn’t. More slots parlors opened in Pennsylvania, taking more of Atlantic City’s money in 2008 and 2009. Then in July, Pennsylvania and Delaware casinos started offering table games, competing even more directly with Atlantic City.

That’s when Christie unveiled a plan to revive Atlantic City, offering greater state assistance in return for greater state control of a resort where local government had been plagued by corruption and inefficiency.

The centerpiece is a plan to create a state-run tourism district encompassing the 11 casinos and the Boardwalk. It would function as a city-within-a-city in charge of its own police protection, cleanliness, traffic and development.

Another bill is a measure long sought by the casinos that would ease up on some of New Jersey’s strict casino regulation.

One bill that Atlantic City staunchly opposes sets up a commission to study how well the reforms are working, but also to explore the future feasibility of casino gambling in Bergen County, most likely at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • simon sez

    Atalntic City has itself to blame; from the criminals that run the city, to the greedy casino operators that have no foresight. Add a terrible economy –Thanks Mr. Obabma– and some savvy developers, movers and shakers in Pa and De. and goodbye AC. Luckily for me, I live here. So, I can sleep and eat at home, don’t need comps and can take advantage of slow tables and room at the bars. Sad for business though. AC has always be resilient –but it ain’t gonna turn around anytime soon!

  • loretta

    i was going to come to AC this summer, but i no longer get free motels there, i dont want to spend gambling money for rooms. i will just go somewhere else. i live close to harrahs at cherokee, NC and i dont get there much anymore because they have become so tight, you may as well just pull up to the door and hand them your money….their loss….

  • DD

    I agree with Bill K., It’s the absence of comps that has stopped me from travelling to AC. The extension of a $39 room comp used to make the cost of burning a tank of gas to get there and back worth it, as it allowed time for gambling, doing some local sight-seeing and dining and getting some sleep so I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep halfway home while driving. Without that benefit, I’ll stay local.

  • Brian C.

    For the past 10 years I was a local Chairman Cardholder. The casinos have gotten so tight in every way possible that it is not even losing entertainment anymore, it’s Thievery! I’d rather give my money to a homeless person..!

  • BC

    The casinos in AC have only themselves to blame. Reinvesting in the city was non existent and all they did was take money out. Now the piper is to be paid in the form of Pennsylvania and other states’ casinos. You reap what you sow and they are getting theirs. Hooray for PA!

  • Bill K.

    If they are hurting that bad, then why no comps! I have many friends that would go down there and lose money, but they no longer get free rooms so they don’t go! I don’t get comps because I never played that much, but I know people the played and lost for hours at a time and they never get offers, but they are getting offers from Sugar House and PARX.

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