Atlantic City casinos end three-year revenue growth streak in 2020

Atlantic City casinos snapped their three-year gaming revenue winning streak in 2020, with an uncertain future ahead in 2021.

On Wednesday, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement announced that Atlantic City’s nine casinos generated combined brick-and-mortar slots and table game revenue of $147.1m in December, a 29.5% decline from the same month last year but effectively unchanged from November 2020’s $146.6m.

December’s slots revenue was off 34.4% year-on-year to $98.4m while table games slid a relatively modest 16.8% to $48.7m. All but one casino reported year-on-year declines in December except the Hard Rock Atlantic City, which somehow managed a 1.7% improvement to $26.3m.

December’s biggest decline was at Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s property, which slid 52.7% to just $12.1m. Other notable decliners included the Golden Nugget ($8.2m, -42.9%), the Tropicana ($13.6m, -42.2%) and Resorts Casino Hotel ($7.2m, -41.9%). The market-leading Borgata fell 27.9% to $39.6m.

For 2020 as a whole, combined slots and table revenue hit just over $1.5b, down 43.7% from 2019, ending a three-year streak of annual revenue growth. All nine casinos posted double-digit declines, with the Borgata posting the biggest plunge, down 52.4% to $337.6m.

In terms of overall gaming revenue, both December’s result and the FY20 sum benefited enormously from the state’s thriving iGaming and sports betting sectors. Counting those additional streams, total gaming win for December was up 1.9% to $275.5m, with four casinos (Borgata, Golden Nugget, Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort) posting individual year-on-year rises.

Sports and iGaming couldn’t totally compensate for the months AC’s casinos spent shut due to COVID-19, and overall gaming win for 2020 was down 19.5% to $2.65b. Of AC’s nine properties, only the online casino king Golden Nugget enjoyed positive growth, rising 9.8% to $415.5m, of which just $95m was earned via land-based slots and tables.

AC casinos have been limited to 25% of their normal capacity since they were allowed to reopen to the public last July, and America’s inability to get a hold on its pandemic situation – over 4,300 deaths on Tuesday alone – suggests there will be no return to casino normal for many months to come.

But with mass vaccination finally underway, and a new federal administration that actually gives a damn, hopes are high that the situation will show major improvement by summer.

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