The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) released third-quarter revenue figures for nine Atlantic City casinos.
The total net revenue for the NJ casinos came in just shy of $929 million for July through September. The figure is good for a 2.7% increase compared to the same period in 2018.
Gross operating profits were also on the rise, increasing 12.5% to $239.4 million when compared to the third quarter of 2018.
The AC casino quarterly report marks the first time revenue and profits could be compared to the prior year with the same nine casinos in operation today.
The quarterly report contains a mixed-bag of metrics that can provide a bird’s-eye view of how the industry and the region are doing.
- Net Revenue (+2.7%): Casino revenue, minus promotions, plus other revenue, such as rooms and dining.
- Gross Operating Profit (+12.5%): The earnings before interest, taxes and payments to affiliates.
- Third-Party Business Sales (+18.7%): The sales from vendors that lease space at a casino.
- Tourism Indicators: Average occupancy (+2.6%) and room rate information for each of the casinos.
How AC casinos fared
Borgata Casino continues its dominance, nearly doubling the net revenue of its nearest competitor with $235.5 million. Even so, it is a slight decrease (0.3%) from last year.
It is the nearest competitor, that is a big surprise. Hard Rock Atlantic City came in second at $128.4 million, up an impressive 27.7% over its first months of operation in 2018.
The only other casino to report double-digit net revenue growth in the third quarter is the other newcomer to the Boardwalk, Ocean Casino (27.4%), with $79.9 million.
At the back of the pack is Resorts, posting $49.6 million in net revenue. On the bright side, along with Hard Rock and Ocean casinos, Resorts is the only other casino returning a positive net revenue number (+1.3%).
Bally’s Atlantic City was the hardest hit. It posted a net revenue number ($60.8 million) that puts it second from the bottom, down nearly 9.3% from last year. That is the largest percentage decrease for the group.
More good news for Atlantic City casinos
Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis spoke to the Press of Atlantic City about other key indicators from the third quarter:
“Positive trends also continued with important tourism indicators. Nongaming amenities continue to create a competitive advantage, and visitors like the diverse dining, entertainment and leisure activities that Atlantic City has to offer.”
Specifically, the industry’s hotel room occupancy came in above 90%, up 8% from last year.
The big winner was Ocean Casino. It reported a 99.6% occupancy rate and also commanded the highest average price at $219 per night.
On the bottom of the totem pole is Tropicana, with an 80.9% occupancy rate, the lowest of the nine casinos.
Additionally, Golden Nugget comes in with the lowest average nightly room rate of $90.25, nearly $71 less than the industry average.
What AC casinos Q3 revenue report tells us
Obviously, a bunch of positive year-over-year numbers is a good thing.
The good news comes at a time when many are questioning the need to limit the number of AC casinos, citing market saturation, and protecting the viability of the existing properties.
It’s true that one quarterly profit statement doesn’t provide enough data to support either side of the argument. Though it does make it a bit harder to support the saturation argument when the market is returning substantial numbers.
The real key to Atlantic City’s overall health is nongaming revenue. It came in at 3.5% above the same period last year.
There is evidence that Atlantic City is continuing to shift toward a Las Vegas model. Nongaming revenue in AC now represents over 47% of total revenue. The Las Vegas nongaming revenue comes in at 65% of total revenue.
Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, commented on the report in the same Press of Atlantic City article.
“Continued overall growth in gaming and nongaming revenues for the destination … clearly demonstrates that not only is the top line strong but the bottom line is showing greater operational efficiency and resilience.”
Atlantic City casinos posted positive net revenue growth for the last six quarters. Year to date, however, the industry is down 4.5% compared to 2018.
It isn’t a surprise that Atlantic City is a seasonal destination. Nonetheless, if AC can continue to increase its nongaming revenue, it may successfully transition into a destination similar to Las Vegas.
If so, banking on a strong season to support the industry for the entire year will be a thing of the past.
Maybe the constant discussion around market saturation and capping casinos will then fall by the wayside.