Hump Day Report: Next Savior is Online Gaming
Rants and raves about burning topics that have caught my attention midweek, be it greedy corporate shenanigans, frustration or joy in regards to the Philly sports teams, a movie, show or DVD that has fired up my imagination, an intriguing personality, or what’s happening in the region. — Lori Hoffman, Associate Editor, Atlantic City Weekly.
As the economic recession has continued to grind away at us, denying us any hope for a breakthrough in the near future, the Atlantic City gaming industry has been one of the businesses hardest hit. Atlantic City’s casino revenue has gone from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006 to just over $3 billion last year.
Obviously when you have trouble paying your bills, discretionary spending is one of the first items trimmed from the budget.
Governor Chris Christie knew it was important to save Atlantic City and all the state revenue generated by the casinos. Besides creating the casino tourism district, Christie saw to it that a stalled casino construction project, Revel, was given enough tax breaks to finish construction. The best case scenario was that once opened, the ultra-chic Revel would expand the Atlantic City market and provide enough non-casino amenities — including a bunch of high end restaurants and a multilevel nightclub — to reverse the economic downturn and pave the way to saving Atlantic City.
So how did that work out? Revel tried a new approach, nearly ignoring the fact that it had a casino, and people stayed away. The casino had to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy less than a year after opening and has since shifted its promotional policy to “gamblers wanted,” including more promotional giveaways, casino revue shows and creating a modestly priced dining option, Relish.
Next up to bat to save Atlantic City is on-line gaming. The Atlantic City based casinos are the only locations allowed to operate the Internet gaming sites, which can only be accessed if you are in the state. The practice run for invited participants begins tomorrow (Nov. 21) with the full operation scheduled to go on-line Nov. 26.
After the five-day “soft opening,” on-line sites will open to the public 9am Tuesday if they get the thumbs up from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
With multiple casinos involved with online partners including Taj Mahal Casino Resort with Ultimate Gaming, the Tropicana with Gamesys Limited, the Borgata with bwin.party and the Golden Nugget offering its own system using Bally Technologies, the notion that the new venture will revitalize the city’s gaming halls and trickle down to the whole region carries more weight in retrospect than the success of a single casino.
Can virtual poker rooms and slot parlors be the key to the turnaround of Atlantic City’s fortunes?