Atlantic City Casinos See Start Of Pandemic Recovery In May

Written By David Danzis on June 17, 2021 - Last Updated on April 25, 2023
AC Casinos May

Atlantic City casinos are showing signs of a post-pandemic recovery as May was the gambling parlors’ best collective month in over a year.

The nine casinos reported nearly $213.2 million in gambling revenue from tables and slots last month, according to data released Wednesday by state gaming regulators. May 2021 was the highest monthly casino win total since the industry reopened last summer following the COVID-19 shutdown.

Last month’s casino win was just 4.4% less than what Atlantic City casinos reported in May 2019, based on data from the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Borgata was once again led the market with $48.7 million while Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City took the No. 2 spot with $35 million.

CasinoTable & OtherPokerSlot MachinesTotal Gaming Win
Bally's$4,457,819$ -$7,888,227$12,346,046
Caesars$7,150,328 $ -$15,256,110$22,406,438
Golden Nugget$2,211,704$ -$10,976,387$13,188,091
Hard Rock$9,497,896$ -$25,470,848 $34,968,744
Ocean Casino$5,156,107$ -$19,482,879$24,638,986
Tropicana$3,801,969$ -$16,094,918 $19,959,933
Total$53,596,592$1,753,776$157,795,124$ 213,145,492

Atlantic City casinos anticipate ‘great summer’

The results are encouraging for an industry that has yet to really experience the benefits of pent-up customer demand seen across the U.S. New Jersey was much more cautious than other states in loosening COVID restrictions, which directly impacted Atlantic City casinos this year.

“Atlantic City’s results in May are promising,” said James Plousis, chairman of the NJ Casino Control Commission. “Casino win was more than 95% of May 2019’s strong results, an indication that tourists are returning to Atlantic City. The market’s momentum is pointing toward a great summer.”

Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism (LIGHT) at Stockton University, said May’s casino revenue figures are a “really encouraging sign considering COVID-19 restrictions were still in place for most of the month.”

Recovery underway for Atlantic City casinos

When casino win is combined with online gambling and sports betting, total gaming revenue reported by Atlantic City casinos was $337.2 million in May.

“May total gross gaming revenue for Atlantic City’s casinos grew 16% over April continuing a trend of recovery for the resort and indicating that Atlantic City is on track for a busy summer season,” Bokunewicz said.

Year-to-date, total gambling revenue is more than $1.5 billion, an increase of nearly 76% over 2020 and 23.5% higher than 2019.

As pandemic wanes, will gambling revenues balance out?

Online gambling revenue eclipsed $100 million for the third consecutive month and fourth time in 2021. The $108.2 million is the second-highest total ever, trailing only the $113.7 million in March 2021.

But May’s online gambling revenue only increased by about 1% over April. Bokunewicz said it will be interesting to watch how online and brick-and-mortar gambling revenues, “balance each other long term as the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.”

“Headed into the peak summer months, we should expect to see brick-and-mortar casino gaming continue to reclaim revenue share from online gambling as patrons flock to Atlantic City’s beaches and iconic boardwalk,” she said.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

As good as the overall industry numbers are, several evolving themes remain true in May.

For one, online casino and sports betting continue to be responsible for a greater percentage of total monthly revenue.

In May 2019, online and sports betting accounted for 16.4%. That number jumped to 36.8% in May 2021.

There’s that Boardwalk pizza pie analogy, again

The other is the growth of Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort. As previously reported, Hard Rock and Ocean are gobbling up market share, largely at the expense of the other Atlantic City casinos. They were the only two Atlantic City casinos to report higher monthly casino win totals in May 2021 than two years prior.

Hard Rock generated nearly $35 million from tables and slots last month, a 21.2% increase over May 2019. Ocean increased 51%, from $16.3 million two years ago to $24.6 million last month.

And, $19.5 million of Ocean’s May casino win came via slots.

“The changes we’re making are working,” said Ocean CEO Terry Glebocki. “The redesign of our casino floor with new pathways, adding nearly 250 new slot machines, as well as the debut of high-limit gaming experiences have all contributed to May being the best slot revenue month in Ocean’s history.”

Photo by AP/Wayne Parry
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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. David lives in Atlantic County, NJ with his wife and two children.

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