The Division of Gaming Enforcement released the October gambling numbers for Atlantic City, showing a 20 percent revenue drop which has partly been blamed on Hurricane Sandy, which forced casinos to shut down at the end of the month. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28), who serves on the Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that while the hurricane affected October revenue, the numbers are going in the wrong direction. He also said his constituents have been frustrated with the lack of communication they’ve received from PSE&G since the storm hit.
Caputo said Hurricane Sandy “pushed these casinos into further disaster. They were having a tough time before this because of the competition and this set them back. The numbers reflect that.”
He said the 20 percent revenue drop didn’t surprise him. While he agrees with Gov. Chris Christie that the storm pushed revenues down for October, he said, “the numbers are going in the wrong direction.”
The revenues may not go back up quickly, according to Caputo. “When you have a gas crisis, people are not going to get in their cars to go to Atlantic City. The feeder markets for Atlantic City, as we discussed before, is New York, North Jersey. They’re having the problems with obtaining gas,” he said. “They’re not going to waste it on a trip to A.C.”
He also said it looks like Atlantic City is going to have a bad season.
Since Hurricane Sandy hit, Caputo has met with officials in his district about the response of utility company PSE&G. He said across the board, officials have said communication has been problematic. “They’ve been overwhelmed, we understand that. OEM is overwhelmed, whatever. Obviously we’re not prepared for this kind of devastation,” he said. “But their main complaint was they did not get the proper communication from the people they were contacting.”
Caputo said Hurricane Sandy has been much worse than Tropical Storm Irene, which hit New Jersey in August 2011. He explained that he would like the utility to give an estimate for power restoration during these times. “I think what they should have done was at least tell people when,” he said. “If you’re going to be out 10 days, 15 days or five days, get back to individuals, get back to municipal officials and let them know exactly when these things are going to be returned.”
While he said the crews in the field have done the best they could, the complaints haven’t always been heard because of overloaded and overworked employees. “In some places they’re telling people they were on and they were out,” Caputo said. “So there was a lot of frustration out there, a tremendous amount.”
Caputo plans to take the complaints to PSE&G from officials, police departments, fire departments, mayors and council people to come up with a strategic plan to deal with future issues.
Christie has said if there were stiffer penalties imposed on utility companies, response would be better. Caputo said after this storm, that issue may be brought to the forefront. “I think that may come. Because after all, the state of New Jersey license has a contract with these companies to sell power to our constituents. And if they’re not providing the proper service, then maybe we should take a look at those arrangements,” he said. “I think this will bring that to the front.”