Atlantic City Annual Revenue Results
On the positive side, 2012 ended with growth across several key indicators for AC. Year-over-year reports showed improvement in hotel bookings related to conventions, along with an increased spend per convention attendee. Perhaps even more encouraging: the number of shows booked in December 2012 at the city’s sprawling convention center facilities shot up some 20% from the previous year.
Further suggesting that better times lie ahead for the gambling capital are a number of positive trends in website visits and social media traffic, both key components of any strategy to attract the younger demographic of gamblers Atlantic City’s casinos are hoping to capture.
Any optimism about the year to come must be tempered by some of the less-pleasant facts of the annual reckoning for Atlantic City. The least pleasant fact of all: The city saw total gambling receipts fall for the sixth consecutive year. 2012 closed with a total take of about $3.05b.
Much of the decline can likely be explained by the catastrophic impact Hurricane Sandy had on not only Atlantic City, but the region at large. Precisely adjusting for the storm is difficult, but it appears that the city’s casinos were on pace for a sub-par year even before Sandy entered the picture.
ACCVA President Jeff Vasser, a key figure in the city’s tourism industry, echoed the severity of the long-term challenge in a statement on the annual report: “Atlantic City has shown a dedicated and expeditious effort to quickly rebound from Hurricane Sandy,” said ACCVA President Jeff Vasser. “However it will take more time to see significant positive trending in many of the key indicators that are tracked by the resort destination.”
One variable that could contribute to a turnaround in Atlantic City is online gambling. State Senator Ray Lesniack, long a champion of online gambling regulation, advanced a bill in the final days of 2012 that would authorize the state’s casinos to offer online poker, casino games and other formats. The bill moved quickly through the State Assembly and Senate and now has only one step remaining: the Governor’s approval.
If Gov. Chris Christies signs the bill, he would immediately thrust New Jersey into competition with Nevada over control of regulated online gambling’s future in the United States. Both would aspire to serve as a central licensing and / or networking hub for America – and perhaps the globe beyond that – and each can offer a compelling pitch to potential partners in other states.
Regulation in New Jersey would also almost certainly improve the chances for similar legislation in states like California, Iowa and Illinois, where past efforts to regulate online poker have stalled.
It’s not clear at this point in time whether or not Christie intends to sign the bill. History suggests he will not, as he vetoed a somewhat similar bill in the previous session. But the times have changed somewhat since his initial rejection and more than a few analysts are suggesting the dire straits of Atlantic City may motivate a change in the Governor’s mind on the matter.