Lawmaker Keeps Casino Revenue Decline In Perspective, Optimistic About Atlantic City

New figures show casino gambling revenue fell by 9.5 percent last month to $263 million in Atlantic City, equating to a 7.6 percent decline for the first five months of the year. The numbers include money that Revel has generated — $14 million. Some might point to the figures as a bad sign for the resort area, but Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes Atlantic City will be able to use its other attractions to remain a viable area for tourists.

Burzichelli said he’s pragmatic about the gaming industry. “There are now so many casinos in so many places that the novelty of the casino has worn off,” he said. “So these numbers reflected in Atlantic City, though we do want them to be higher, remember they don’t take into consideration the other area of growth. And that’s with hotel rooms, with restaurants and all the other ancillary things taking place in Atlantic City.”

He also explained that the casinos are only required to report what takes place in the casino part of the operations. “There’s other dimensions to the operations that are seeing growth — for example, restaurant side of the ledger — and even during this recession there is growth across Atlantic City,” Burzichelli said.

He said Revel is in the process of coming into its own even though it spent the lowest amount on promotion to get customers in its casino offerings. Burzichelli said Revel had a “spectacular opening” with worldwide attention because of the Beyoncé concert. First Lady Michelle Obama and Gov. Chris Christie were in attendance.

Burzichelli said analysts must look at Atlantic City in perspective. “If you look at the numbers in Connecticut, at the Indian casino there that was a leader for so long, they’re teetering on bankruptcy,” he said. “So the industry’s changing and I think the changes we’ve made in the regulatory environment and the things we’re doing for Atlantic City, Atlantic City’s going to be fine.”

The assemblyman has been a strong supporter of gaming law reform, citing the latest piece of legislation that would allow for mobile gambling at casino pools and restaurants. He said mobile gambling is happening in Nevada and that it will also happen in New Jersey. “We’re looking at all the ways to make New Jersey — in this case Atlantic City — competitive with anyone so when you travel there you’ve got the best choices of everything,” Burzichelli said.

The busy season for Atlantic City is just beginning, Burzichelli said, since the area still relies on its beaches to attract visitors. He anticipates that the mid-season will also be better as conventions happen there.

Burzichelli has high hopes for the future of the resort area. “The work we’ve done on the regulatory oversight side makes it very attractive now to do business in Atlantic City, which is why you see the Golden Nugget change hands, the $150 million investment made there after the acquisition. The place is getting very good reviews,” he said. “A lot of optimism that Atlantic City is going to evolve in this new competitive gaming market and do very well.”