How long is too long for AC casinos to remain closed?
It's never a good time for a global pandemic to force doors closed on your business. But for long-struggling Atlantic City, which on Monday reaches Day 7 of a state-mandated shutdown, the timing will likely cut short an impressive comeback on the casino-revenue front.
According to industry experts, whether this dormancy period means life or death for certain gaming halls depends on how long doors must stay closed.
"You think of just casinos on the casino floor, but it impacts all kinds of different elements, in terms of visitation, tourism, hospitality," said Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine.
Employees of the nine shuttered casinos are getting paid for at least two weeks, according to information shared with New Jersey 101.5 by the casinos themselves and the Unite Here Local 54 casino workers' union.
"If it goes beyond a month, I think that's when it's going to get very serious," Gros said. "You're going to see casinos kind of have to decide where they're going to go with this — are they going to stay in business?"
Between early 2014 and late 2016, five casinos in the city dealt their last hands, resulting in the elimination of 11,000 jobs. A five-year state takeover of the cash-strapped city is set to run out in 2021.
On the same day in 2018, the former Revel property opened as Ocean Resort Casino and Hard Rock took over the property long occupied by Trump Taj Mahal. The two new operations diluted some of the success of the already-running seven casinos, but together the city's casinos won $3.29 billion from gamblers in 2019, an increase of more than 15% from 2018. February 2020, meanwhile, was the most successful February for Atlantic City casinos in nearly a decade.
"We are right now in an uncertain situation," said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University. "Atlantic City has been doing extremely well ... but of course it's important to do what's best for the health of society and humanity in general."
New Jersey gamblers can still satisfy their itch with internet casinos. The Garden State is one of just a few states offering casino games for real money online. Online gambling providers have already seen a significant spike in volume and revenue in the days since the brick-and-mortar closures.
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