The calendar has turned to 2022 but Atlantic City casinos are still dealing with many of the same issues from 2021.
The coronavirus, labor shortages, the growth of online gambling and how each variable impacts retail casinos will continue to be stories to watch this year.
However, the new year also ushers in some new storylines to pay attention to.
The imminent launch of New York online sports betting and its ripple effects on New Jersey iGaming will be significant.
Lawmakers in Trenton have their eyes on a few proposals that will affect Atlantic City casinos and the seaside resort.
Here are five things to watch for in 2022 at Atlantic City casinos.
1. Put your mask on right, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City
At the moment, Atlantic City casinos are operating without restrictions.
But the omicron variant of COVID-19 is wreaking havoc around the world. As the virus spreads, governments at home and abroad are reinstituting pandemic restrictions on travel, business and in-person activities.
Casinos across the United States are reimplementing mask mandates or requiring proof of vaccination. Look no further than New York or Pennsylvania for examples.
New Jersey is currently seeing a spike of positive COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant’s high rate of transmission.
Gov. Phil Murphy has said there are no plans to impose COVID regulations.
Will Atlantic City casinos be forced, either by government or circumstance, to alter their unrestricted operations?
If the last 18 months have taught us anything it’s that things can change quickly.
2. Can a slow rebound lead to growth for Atlantic City casinos?
In the 43-year history of Atlantic City casinos, 2021 could, arguably, be remembered as the most misunderstood.
Eye-catching headlines touting gambling revenue and profit increases often lacked context or failed to explain why and how.
Las Vegas recovered early in 2021 and multiple states expanded betting options, leading to a record-breaking year for the United States gambling industry.
Taken together, this created an incorrect belief that all is well with Atlantic City casinos.
Is the sky falling in Atlantic City? No.
However, the numbers do not lie.
Only two of the city’s nine casinos reported increases from in-person gambling in 2021. Across the city, nearly every metric used to gauge visitation, customer spending and operations is down when compared to before the pandemic.
Could a slew of multi-million-dollar projects (many of which are required by state regulators) and some good luck lead to tangible growth in 2022?
3. Will NJTransit trains from Penn Station to Secaucus Junction be less crowded?
It is finally happening.
New York online sportsbooks will go live Jan. 8. Four operators will launch in the Empire State in the coming days, with five more likely to be available in short order.
With the NFL Playoffs just around the corner, N.Y. online sportsbooks are set up for immediate success.
Industry experts and analysts have been theorizing for years how big of a chunk will N.Y.’s entry into online sports betting take from N.J.
In 2021, New Jersey became the first state to ever report $1 billion in monthly sports bets.
Conservative estimates say roughly 20-25% of online sports betting action in the Garden State are New Yorkers crossing the river to gamble.
The answer will soon be very clear.
New Jersey is, currently, the undisputed king of U.S. sports betting.
Will 2022 be the year of a new top dog in sports betting?
4. Does online gambling have a ceiling in New Jersey?
The shutdown of Atlantic City casinos accelerated the growth of online gambling in New Jersey. NJ online sports betting attracted new customers to internet casinos.
Combined, these two factors have taken New Jersey online gambling to new heights.
Online gambling generated more than $1.23 billion through November, accounting for nearly 32% of all reported revenue from Atlantic City casinos.
Since 2013, when N.J. first began offering legal online casino gambling, the market has only gotten larger.
But can it continue to do so?
There is not much evidence to suggest online gambling will slow down anytime soon.
Will 2022 be the year online gambling tappers off, or will it just continue trending up?
5. What Trenton makes, Atlantic City has no choice but to take
A new legislative session will begin for state lawmakers on Jan. 12.
There is no question that when politicians convene in Trenton, a handful of proposals impacting Atlantic City casinos will be brought up.
The most likely to see swift action is a total smoking ban inside Atlantic City casinos. The gambling parlors are among the state’s last exemptions for allowing indoor smoking.
COVID-19 makes this a public health issue and lawmakers will not want to hear about lost revenue for casinos.
Another bill introduced in Trenton could benefit Atlantic City directly.
For far too long, Atlantic City has felt slighted that money generated from its casinos disappears in the form of taxes and fees that are distributed throughout N.J.
A new bill proposes that 1.25% of sports betting taxes be returned to Atlantic City in the form of property tax relief.
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