Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s expected signature today on a bill to allow table games in addition to its existing slot machines is another bit of bad news for Atlantic City. The bill passed the state Senate 28-22 previously and the Assembly 103-89 yesterday. Rendell threatened to layoff 1,000 state workers if the bill wasn’t on his desk by tomorrow (Friday, Jan 8, 2010). That got legislators moving.
Pennsylvania will now permit up to 250 table games in larger casinos and up to 50 in smaller resort casinos. Table games are poker, baccarat, blackjack, roulette, craps, and similar games of chance. The cost of licensing is $16.5 million for the large casinos and $7.5 million for resort casinos, which is a drop in the bucket in the scope of the big picture. The 14 casinos in the state should add an additional $250 million per year to state coffers.
Atlantic City, the No.2 casino city in the United States after Las Vegas, has seen reduced revenues for over a year, putting an added strain on New Jersey’s already bloated budget deficit. The monopoly Atlantic City once enjoyed on gambling on the East Coast is ancient history.
Connecticut has three Indian casinos that allow slots and table games, making them the first to cut into Atlantic City’s lucrative market. West Virginia was next, first having slots at two dog tracks and two horse tracks, then adding table games in 2007. They recently granted a full gambling license to the infamous Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs.
Delaware has one poker venue in Wilmington, plus video poker and slots at the three “racinos”, as they call their race tracks with legal gambling. It won’t be long before table games are installed in each of the sites.
So what is Atlantic City to do? They will lose much of their Philadelphia area gamblers once the table games open next November or so. Delaware’s table games will debut around the same time. No doubt entrepreneurs will add restaurants and resort hotels near the casinos, further damaging Atlantic City’s bottom line.
Atlantic City will need to take advantage of what it’s already got for the dozen casinos, employing 36,000 workers, to be profitable. That means marketing non-gaming venues. Upscale, fashionable restaurants with trendy surroundings are already a big draw, as are the 200 retail, brand name, and outlet stores.
Atlantic City also has big name entertainers going for it. Not a night goes by that the city doesn’t feature a dozen acts targeting every age group. Glitzy, nouveau nightclubs, with a regular parade of celebrity sightings, is turning AC into a mecca for the 21-40 year old crowd. And they have bucks to spend.
AC also offers championship boxing matches, plus those new martial art/kick boxing/in-a-cage fights. There’s also college basketball, including the Atlantic 10 tournament each March.
Last but not least, there’s the beach. Geez, no other casino in neighboring states has the sparkling white sands and bikini babes. And the beach is a great place to watch an air show or fireworks or lifeguard competitions or throw a frisbee or ….
Well, maybe Atlantic City should be saying, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Time will tell.
- Mountain Man and City Girl