The future of the Atlantic City casino industry will depend on new technology, diversity and inclusion and whether the city, state and county can learn to work together, said a panel of industry experts at the Stockton University Atlantic City Campus. The panel discussion held Thursday afternoon was a conversation about the process and impact of legalizing casino gaming titled “Celebrating 45 Years: Legalized Casino Gaming in New Jersey.”
Hosted by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, the panelists included:
- Michael C. Epps, the first Atlantic City native to serve as a New Jersey Casino Control Commissioner
- Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel and the president of the Casino Association of New Jersey
- Lynne Levin Kaufman, co-chair of Cooper Levenson’s Gaming Law Practice
- Steven P. Perskie, retired Superior Court judge and the author and principal cosponsor of the original New Jersey Casino Control Act
- David Rebuck, the director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
Here is an overview of what the panel had to say regarding the past, present and future of Atlantic City casinos.
Giannantonio sees the ‘stars aligning’
Giannantonio, who is a Stockton University grad, credits multiple generations for helping the Atlantic City market achieve its current levels. At the same time, he pointed out there is still plenty of work ahead. But overall, Giannantonio has a positive outlook.
“I think we have to applaud the old generation because they did a phenomenal amount of work to get the industry to where it is. But I see today the stars aligning. I see Atlantic City’s best years ahead of us. It’s going to require work, but it’s not brain surgery,” he said.
Giannantonio noted the city and the industry need to work together to draw visitors in the off off-season.
“It’s the absence of people and consumers on our street that’s a problem,” Giannantonio said. “That’s what infrastructure, free capital investments will do. Who doesn’t want to invest in a seashore community?”
What about the Atlantic City revenue picture?
When it comes to the all-important casino floor earnings, Giannantonio said “We are still in turbulent times and recovering from the pandemic, but even with numbers down 7% in October, I am very optimistic.”
Giannantonio was referring to Atlantic City revenue numbers in September and October that were less encouraging when compared to September 2019 – before the coronavirus outbreak.
Here is a closer look comparing the first nine months of this year with the same period in September 2019 (information provided by the Casino Association of New Jersey):
- Bally’s Atlantic City down 10.3%
- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa down 1.2%
- Caesars Atlantic City down 9.3%
- Golden Nugget Atlantic City down 25.2%
- Harrah’s Resort down 17.2%
- Resorts down 5.9%
- Tropicana Atlantic City down 16.8%
Ocean Casino Resort and Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City are not included as both properties opened during the summer of 2018.
Looking back at the Atlantic City Casino Control Act
It’s been 45 years since the Casino Control Act was signed into law in 1977 and legalized gambling came to New Jersey. The first casino opened was Resorts in Atlantic City.
Perskie, the author and principal cosponsor of the original New Jersey Casino Control Act, helped write the casino legislation 45 years ago. Speaking to the audience of more than 100 people while another 100 watched online,
Perskie said “I think Mark (Giannantonio) is right.”
“My view is that the future is going to be dependent on what the industry does and what the government does,” Perskie said. “The industry will continue to do what it has continued to do; the question is will the government continue to meet its responsibilities?”
Perskie also touched on the “up and down existence” of Atlantic City government – referring to corruption, the arrest of four city mayors and a state takeover – in the decades that followed casino gambling.
“Some years things [were] well done and some years dramatically they were not,” Perskie said. “The result as we sit here today is that there are some things that the city government can undertake and some that no city government has the facilities or strength to handle.”
Improving Atlantic City for the future
Perskie cited the city’s continuing battle with the homeless population which some say is the result of other neighboring communities sending homeless men and women to Atlantic City by bus.
Perskie also noted building a new Boardwalk, something the city has talked about for years. However, it isn’t affordable for Atlantic City and they would have to ask the state for money.
“The continued reliance on fixing these problems, and whether the state and city and county can put a program together to attack these problems, is still the question,” Perskie said. “And then we can put together what it takes to make Atlantic City better and make Atlantic City be the image that we want it to be.”
‘We need more’ women in Atlantic City management positions
Kaufman said improvement for the future exists in having more women in top casino management positions.
“I’m taking a different tact. I think one of the things I’m looking forward to in the future is something we hear about all the time, diversity and inclusion,” Kaufman said.
“When we look at our customers in iGaming and sports wagering, half the customers are women,” Kaufman said.
“Why aren’t more women CEOs? We need more of them. We are trying but it’s a long process. If you hire more diverse people at the top that represent your customers, you’re going to get a better product and better customer service that will help casinos make more money, more capital investment and all of which will help Atlantic City grow. We need more diversity at the top.”
Director Rebuck’s view: AC ‘will always rise again’
Rebuck said the state and city had been successful in keeping organized crime out of the casino gaming industry.
He said the relationship between the state and the casino industry is more of a partnership.
“This partnership is well entrenched today. I expect it to continue into the future with whoever has the leadership position,” Rebuck said. “The other thing is Atlantic City is a very resilient town. The naysayers are always looking to knock it down, but remember it will always rise again.”