Atlantic City casinos lose again in January

February 10, 2009 5:32:29 PM PST
Here's what passes for good news for Atlantic City's casinos these days: The 11 gambling halls did twice as well in January as they did a month earlier but still posted a 9.4 percent decline in revenue from the first month of last year. After posting their biggest decline in history in December, when revenue fell 18.7 percent, Atlantic City's casinos rebounded to win $321.4 million.

The decline was half of what it had been a month ago, but still showed how badly this seaside resort is struggling with the twin demons of a national recession and fierce competition from out-of-state slots parlors.

"The encouraging sign is that it wasn't a double-digit decline," said Joseph Domenico, senior vice president and general manager of Bally's Atlantic City.

The casinos won $211.6 million at the slot machines, down 9.6 percent from January 2008, and $109.8 million at table games, down 9.1 percent.

The beginning of Atlantic City's revenue decline, now in its third year, coincided with the opening of slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York, which have siphoned off gamblers who previously viewed Atlantic City as their only choice without flying to Las Vegas or driving for hours to other states.

January's biggest decline was posted by Resorts Atlantic City, the city's most struggling casino. It is in danger of being foreclosed on by its lenders for not making loan payments since October, and saw its revenue fall by 25.4 percent in January compared with the same month last year.

The next biggest decline was at the Showboat Casino Hotel (down 21.8 percent), followed by Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (down 21.3 percent), the Atlantic City Hilton Casino and Resort (down 19.1 percent), and Bally's (down 16.9 percent).

Trump Marina Hotel Casino, which is in the process of being sold to a former protege of Donald Trump, was down 8 percent. The Tropicana Casino and Resort, which is about to be sold at a bankruptcy court auction, was down 7.7 percent, and Caesars Atlantic City was down 7.6 percent.

Even the city's dominant casino, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, was down 4.5 percent, and Harrah's Resort Atlantic City was down 2.4 percent.

The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was the only casino to post an increase, up 9.8 percent compared with January 2008.

Mark Juliano, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, said most of the increase was due to the casino's new Chairman Tower, with its 782 hotel rooms bringing more gamblers. The casino also did better at table games, and its slot revenue was up slightly as well.