How Atlantic City could grow in 2020 (or screw it up)
Following a landmark year for Atlantic City and gambling overall in the state of New Jersey, growth is expected to continue in 2020 — as long as the industry doesn't overplay its hand, according to experts.
For the first time since 2012, the casino industry in New Jersey surpassed the $3 billion mark in annual gross gaming revenue in 2019 — the feat was accomplished within the first 11 months of the year.
"When December's gross gaming revenues are released, we anticipate the streak will extend to 19 consecutive months of gain," said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University.
Those numbers from the Division of Gaming Enforcement will be released on Jan 14.
The year 2019 was the first full year in which both internet gaming and sports betting were legal in the Garden State. Sportsbooks in New Jersey surpassed Nevada's revenue numbers in four different months in 2019.
Last year also marked the first full year of operations for Ocean Resort Casino and Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, both of which opened on the same day in June 2018 and brought the city's casino count back up to nine.
Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine, said the two newer gaming halls "right-sized" the market in the seaside resort city, and expanded the customer base with different offerings.
But just one more opening could do more harm than good, he fears, specifically referring to efforts by Bart Blatstein, owner of the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel, to gain a gaming license for the former casino.
"I think another casino would definitely push somebody over the edge there,' Gros said.
Gros said industry-watchers are also keeping their eye on the finalization of a merger between Caesars Entertainment and Eldorado. Expected to be finalized this year, the deal would give Eldorado control of four casinos in Atlantic City — Tropicana, which it already runs, plus Bally's, Caesars and Harrah's.
"There's a lot of speculation that they'll either sell or close at least one of the four casinos that this company will own after this purchased is closed," Gros said.
Regulators will have to decide whether owning four out of the city's nine casinos "would result in an undue economic concentration," according to the Press of Atlantic City. The report says the gaming companies will present evidence to suggest there'd be no issue.
Barring any other entrants into the market, Gros anticipates a steady year of revenue in 2020 for land-based casinos in New Jersey. A casino coming to Philadelphia's stadium district sometime in 2020, Gros said, should impact Pennsylvania's market much more than it would impact Atlantic City.
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