‘Creepy’ Feeling Around Atlantic City Casinos In Wake Of Cyberattacks

Written By David Danzis on October 13, 2023
image of atlantic city casinos affected by a cyberattack, which may cause fear among potential guests

The eerie calm that has washed over Atlantic City casinos the last few weeks has nothing to do with Halloween or the changing of the seasons.

It is not even because most of the gambling industry is gathered in Las Vegas this week for the Global Gaming Expo (G2E).

The recent cyberattacks on two of the largest US casino operators have noticeably impacted Atlantic City casinos. Or at least that is the general feeling in town lately.

New Jersey gambling regulators will publish September’s revenue results for the AC casino industry on Oct. 16.

“For sure,” says longtime stickman “Larry” when asked if business has been slower since the digital breaches at both MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment became public knowledge in mid-September.

“I’m not smart enough to know if the two things are connected, but I know something is off. The players who are here don’t seem too concerned, though.”

First signs of cyberattacks at Atlantic City casinos

“Larry” is not the craps dealer’s real name since he was not authorized to speak to the media beforehand. However, “Larry” works at the MGM-owned Borgata Atlantic City, the market leader among Atlantic City casinos.

Locally, it was at the Borgata that AC gamblers and employees first noticed a disruption. On Sept. 10, Borgata guests started reporting issues with certain systems, such as credit card processing and MGM Rewards access. There was no indication that the attack had any effect on NJ online casinos or online sportsbooks in New Jersey.

A few days later, Caesars and MGM both filed paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission acknowledging cybercriminals had gained access to internal information, including customer databases.

Regina and her husband Marcus canceled a planned AC trip for Sept. 14 after hearing about the cyberattacks on the news. The Delaware couple actually couldn’t get anyone on the phone at Borgata for several days.

“Once we finally got through, they were very nice and all,” she said.

“But they could only do so much because (the employees) couldn’t access our (MGM Rewards) account info.”

‘Happy place’ is still in Atlantic City

That is because MGM shut down most of its systems once it became aware of the cyber attack, according to statements from the company.

Slowly but surely, MGM has restored many of its operating systems at its properties across the country. But some functions, like checking an MGM Rewards account at kiosks, remain unavailable.

“We’re staying at another hotel but came here (to Borgata) to gamble a bit,” Regina said. “I’m not even sure if we’re getting our (tier) points or what. But this is our happy place, so we’re here.”

“Larry” says co-workers he knows (Borgata has over 2,500 employees) got paid on time following the cyberattacks.

“I can’t tell that anything happened except there are less people in here than we’re used to seeing this time of year,” he said.

September and early October are affectionately known as locals’ summer along the Jersey Shore. The summer crowds are gone, and the casinos aren’t as busy. There is an expected decline in volume across the city.

But this year has been different.

Don’t click on that suspicious link in that random email

On the Boardwalk, Jojo Harris said her monthly trip to AC with a group of friends was thrown off because of the cyberattacks.

“Two of our girlfriends didn’t want to come,” said Harris, a self-described “loyal” Caesars customer. “They didn’t think it was safe or whatever. One of ’em said someone tried to hack her credit card account (since September’s announcement).”

While on a smoke break outside Caesars Atlantic City and telling PlayNJ why her friends bailed, Harris got an email telling her about a new credit inquiry in her name that she “definitely” did not apply for.

“Well, I guess she wasn’t crazy,” Harris says with an uncomfortable laugh in between drags of her Marlboro Light 100.

Caesars Entertainment opted to pay a ransom after it was attacked, according to multiple media reports. The company has not confirmed this, but its filings with the SEC indicate the reports are accurate.

The Reno-based company operates three Atlantic City casinos — Caesars AC, Harrah’s Resort AC and Tropicana AC. There have not been any reported operational disruptions at any of the Caesars properties as a result of the cyber attacks.

However, the ripple effects of the cyber attacks are clearly being felt by the entire industry.

Winter already here for Atlantic City casinos

At Bally’s Atlantic City, Russell Williams was playing a slot machine by himself. The “Atlantic County local” said he’s never seen the gaming floors this empty this time of year.

“It feels like the dead of winter in here some days,” says Williams, a familiar face around the Boardwalk casinos. “It’s like that ‘Game of Thrones’ show. Winter is coming, right? Well, winter is already here in AC.”

Williams gets up to bum a cigarette from someone walking on the Boardwalk. It’s a beautiful October day in Atlantic City. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue with a few puffy white clouds, and the temperature is comfortable.

There are only about 10 people visible in either direction, no one close enough to even talk to.

“Yeah, that sh*t ain’t right,” Williams says, before turning around to go back inside Bally’s. “It’s creepy as f*ck out here right now, man.”

Photo by PlayNJ
David Danzis Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by David Danzis
Privacy Policy