NY Casinos Will Hurt Atlantic City, So Why Is No One Talking About It?

Written By David Danzis on February 1, 2024 - Last Updated on March 18, 2024
Rendering of Caesars Palace Times Square for a story on effect of New York City-area casinos on Atlantic City

It is somewhat odd that there has been very little public chatter about the impact New York City-area casinos will have on Atlantic City and the New Jersey gambling market.

After all, NY casinos will unquestionably be among the most significant economic threats in the seaside resort’s history.

New York is in the process of awarding three gaming licenses to multibillion-dollar projects, all of which are located in an area that will directly compete with and pull market share from Atlantic City casinos.

Billions of dollars are on the table, at stake

The full-scale casino resorts being considered in downstate NY are not the slot parlors and electronic table game halls that currently operate in places like Yonkers, Queens or Long Island.

These are authentic Las Vegas/Atlantic City-style casinos being proposed by some of the biggest names in gambling, such as Caesars, MGM, Hard Rock, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn and Bally’s.

That makes it a bit of a head-scratcher as to why Garden State officials are mum on the issue. Everyone knows what is coming, yet no one in a position to do anything to aid Atlantic City seems inclined to do so.

A trio of casinos in and around Gotham will generate billions of dollars in revenue and taxes for NY — money that otherwise could have gone to AC and New Jersey.

Not-so-breaking news: Atlantic City casinos can’t afford to lose business

Atlantic City casinos are in no position to be losing gamblers.

Only three of AC’s nine casinos generated more revenue in 2023 than they did before COVID-19 upended the industry nearly four years ago.

According to the most recent data from state gaming regulators, there are almost 25% fewer casino jobs today than in 2019. Operating profits for most publicly traded companies operating casinos in AC are not growing, meaning further job reductions and operational cutbacks are likely.

At least someone is still paying attention

PlayNJ has been talking about the potential impact of NY casinos on AC for years.

We asked several casino bosses about it in 2021 and 2022 during our “Atlantic City Boardwalk Talk” video series. In 2022 and 2023, PlayNJ moderated a forum of AC casino executives hosted by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber and posed the question to the local leaders.

PlayNJ makes a weekly radio appearance on the “AC Mike Show” on WOND AM in South Jersey, and we’ve also broached the topic numerous times there.

Our sister site, PlayNY, has also explored the idea of what could happen to AC casinos when NY casinos go live. Some of the quotes in that story from AC casino executives are eye-opening.

And yet…

No one else is discussing this. Not the local media or city, county or state elected officials. Not even the lobbying arm of AC casinos.

Silence.

Bad odds for AC casino success when NYC enters the game

The closest anyone connected with AC casinos has come to addressing this issue publicly is Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairman of Hard Rock International.

Allen estimated that roughly 20% to 30% of the AC market are customers from the North Jersey and greater NYC area — the affluent and densely-populated market that downstate NY casinos will be poaching from.

It is logical and fair to extrapolate that estimate for the rest of the AC market. If Atlantic City casinos are competing with brand-new casino resorts in their customers’ backyards, they are facing an uphill battle — and that’s putting it mildly.

The odds are not in AC’s favor.

Breaking down proposals for NYC-area casinos

Some AC casino operators are feigning enthusiasm about the prospect of a downstate NY casino. That is simply because, at the moment, their company is in the running for one of the available licenses. New York officials are being extremely deliberate in their selection process and all 11 potential license applicants are, theoretically, on equal footing.

That will change in the coming months as the Empire State process unfolds and some projects are eliminated from contention.

PlayNY has been keeping tabs on the downstate casino licensing process and will continue to follow along as it unfolds. You can find details on each of the 11 proposed NY casino projects at PlayNY.

In the meantime, here’s a quick breakdown of how AC casino operators are connected to the potential NY casino projects:

Hard Rock / Queens

Hard Rock International and billionaire Wall Street investor Steve Cohen are proposing an $8 billion casino and entertainment complex at Willetts Point in Queens. Cohen owns the New York Mets and the casino project would be adjacent to the baseball team’s home stadium (Citi Field). The project is also a hop, skip and a jump away from LaGuardia Airport and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the US Open.

More than any other proposed NY casino, the Hard Rock/Cohen project poses the most significant threat to Atlantic City because of its proximity to the international airport.

Caesars Entertainment / Times Square

Reno-based Caesars Entertainment operates three casinos along the Shore — Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Tropicana Atlantic City. The company has invested more than $420 million into those properties since 2020.

That money is a drop in the bucket compared to what Caesars wants to do in the Big Apple. Caesars, along with SL Green Realty Corp. and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, wants to build a casino resort in Times Square.

Caesars Palace Times Square would be an absolute game-changer. It would instantly become the company’s flagship East Coast property and would immediately be one of the gambling industry’s highest-profile casinos.

MGM Resorts International / Yonkers

MGM operates the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the highest-grossing property in AC for the better part of the last 20 years.

Many consider the Las Vegas-based gambling giant a frontrunner for one of the three available downstate NY casino licenses. It currently operates MGM Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. Empire City Casino is one of those “slot boxes” (as they are derisively known in the industry) mentioned above.

Adding live-dealer table games and real random-number-generated slot machines (Empire City and others in the area use a linked lottery-based system) to the facility would transform the oft-overlooked casino property. Converting the property would be quicker and more cost-efficient than constructing an entirely new casino, so New York could start generating tax revenue sooner (which is why it is considered a frontrunner).

Bally’s / Ferry Point

The only casino project proposed for The Bronx comes from Bally’s Corp., the Rhode Island-based company that operates Bally’s Atlantic City.

Earlier this month, Bally’s closed on a deal transforming the former Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point to Bally Links. The golf course would be an amenity to a proposed Bally’s casino in The Bronx.

There is currently little information on Bally’s casino plans in New York other than they will be among the 11 license applicants when the bidding officially opens later this year.

Mohegan / Manhattan

While it is not a direct connection, Mohegan has a presence in Atlantic City and is among the companies backing a proposed NY casino.

Mohegan is the operating partner of Resorts Casino Hotel, the first US casino outside Nevada. Mohegan also operates a tribal casino in Connecticut.

Businessman Morris Bailey owns Resorts. The legendary casino’s image more closely aligns with Bailey than the tribal gaming operator.

Mohegan is teaming up with developer Soloviev Group for a casino project on Mahattan’s East Side near the United Nations.

Photo by SL Green Realty Corp
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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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