Atlantic City casinos braved the mid-winter chill in February, with in-person gambling revenues increasing ever so slightly compared to a year earlier.
Revenue from slot machines and table games was up 1.2% last month over the same period in 2022, according to data released Thursday by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. The city’s nine casinos collectively reported just under $215 million in revenue from in-person gamblers.
February was the fourth-consecutive month of brick-and-mortar revenue increases for Atlantic City casinos.
The most-recent monthly financial reports indicate that the AC market is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Gamblers are spending comparable amounts of money, but where they are doing so has changed significantly.
New Jersey Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis said the modest monthly increase continued a positive trend for the industry.
“Casino win was the second-best February result in eleven years, demonstrating that Atlantic City’s in-person experiences continue to appeal,” Plousis said in a statement.
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Atlantic City casino revenue still recovering
February’s data is a bit of a mixed bag for Atlantic City casinos.
Five casinos posted year-over-year increases from in-person gambling. Bally’s Atlantic City (+14.3%), Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa (+8.8%) and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City (+8.1%) saw the largest gains. Caesars Atlantic City (+1.4%) and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City (+0.3%) were also up.
Golden Nugget Atlantic City (-13.9%) and Ocean Casino Resort (-11.5%) had double-digit percentage dips, while Resorts Casino Hotel (-2%) and Tropicana Atlantic City (-0.7%) had more minor declines.
Year-to-date, in-person gambling revenue is up 7.7% over 2022 and 4% over 2020. The NJDGE says casino win through the first two months of 2023 is $426.6 million.
The year-over-year returns are a positive sign for a casino market looking to recoup pre-COVID momentum. But, the February data shows a handful of operators are still lagging behind pre-pandemic performance.
Six Atlantic City casinos reported less revenue in February 2023 than in February 2020, a month before the gambling parlors were ordered to close. Overall, in-person gambling revenues last month were 1.5% lower than the same month three years ago.
Follow the money
Several factors play into determining the health of the AC market and individual casinos. Revenue and profits are key metrics. Other variables, such as labor levels, hotel room occupancy, promotional spending (free play) and visitation are also critical.
One of the industry’s most-telling data points is how much money is being gambled. There’s an obvious correlation between more money being gambled and higher revenues. But, how much customers are spending — and where they choose to spend it — is an important gauge of volume.
In February 2023, $2.04 billion was gambled at table games ($307.5 million) and slot machines ($1.73 billion) in AC casinos. Compared to February 2022 ($1.97 billion), the amount gambled increased by 3.5%, according to state data. The monthly amount gambled is down slightly, 1.1%, from February 2020.
A closer look at the individual casinos shows four properties reported less table-game play in 2023 compared to 2022. Going back to 2020, seven of nine have seen the amount gambled at their tables decline. Only Hard Rock and Ocean are up in that time span.
As for slots, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Resorts and Trop reported less coin-in last month than a year ago. Those four plus Bally’s and Harrah’s had less slot machine play in February 2023 than 2020.
No sign of inflation fears for NJ gamblers
As a whole, NJ’s legal gambling industry is performing well. The state’s internet gambling and sports betting markets are the nation’s largest and fourth-largest, respectively.
Online casino operators in NJ generated more than $146.9 million last month, nearly 10% more than last year.
Sportsbooks partnered with AC’s casinos reported a shade under $20 million, up 40% from a year before. NJ sportsbooks collectively generated more than $54.6 million in February, an increase of 77% over 2022.
Total gambling revenue — the sum of land-based, online and sports betting — reported by Atlantic City casinos and their partners increased nearly 6% last month compared to 2022.