Atlantic City by the numbers: How the resort town survived pandemic
All nine gaming halls were dark for more than 100 days, and since they've reopened to the public, capacity limits indoors have been no greater than 35%.
Nightclubs remain off-limits, and folks who do choose to gamble must remain distant from unrelated players and communicate with their dealer through a glass barrier.
It's been a historic year of challenges for Atlantic City, which recently wrapped up its 12th month of coronavirus-impacted operations.
These impacts have been quantified in a new report from the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT) at Stockton University.
In the 12-month period beginning March 2020, the report shows, revenues from in-person gaming at Atlantic City casinos declined by 48%, compared to a year prior, according to figures from the Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Remote gaming activities helped soften the blow — internet gaming and mobile sports betting saw revenues increase by 92% as folks quarantined at home or avoided casinos once they were given the green light to reopen at limited capacity in early July.
Prior to the pandemic, online betting represented roughly 20% of gaming revenues; that share jumped to 45% over the last 12 months, according to LIGHT's report.
"The casinos keep a smaller share of that revenue because the tax rate is higher, and there are revenue shares that are negotiated with the internet gaming providers," said LIGHT coordinator Jane Bokunewicz.
Casino gaming floors, as well as restaurants inside casinos, are permitted to expand capacity to 50% on March 19.
According to January employment reports, casino employment in 2021 was down 20% compared to January 2020.
Travel along the Atlantic City Expressway ebbed and flowed with the perceived threat of COVID-19, the report suggests. In April 2020, the first full month of casino closures, the count of vehicles at the Pleasantville Toll Plaza was 73.4% lower than in April 2019. In July, when casinos were able to reopen, vehicle counts year over year were down 20%, and they were down 15% at the end of summer in September. Then in December, in the middle of a second wave of infections, the vehicle count was down 36% compared to a year prior.
Bokunewicz believes that a rebound in vehicle trips will occur sooner than summer in 2021.
"As more people get vaccinated, they're going to want to take a day trip somewhere, and Atlantic City is the perfect location," she said.
Passenger counts at Atlantic City International Airport remain significantly down compared to a year ago, according to the report.
Using numbers from Meet AC, which tracks business at the Atlantic City Convention Center, the report finds the number of meetings and trade shows fell by 89% in the 12-month period ended February 2021, compared to the year prior. Nearly 600,000 fewer people attended meetings and conventions in the city.
According to Bokunewicz, conventions and nightclubs in the city, which would typically attract large indoor crowds, will likely be among the city's offerings to recover the slowest.
"That's going to hurt the casino revenue for a longer period of time," she said.
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