Sandy Aid May Prove Lucrative for Atlantic City Casinos

After the city of New Orleans was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, the two massive forces of recovery – financial aid from the government and an influx of workers who came in from other locations to assist in the rebuilding efforts – unknowingly conspired to benefit the casino industry along the gulf shores of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina was one of the five most lethal hurricanes ever to hit the United States, and also was the most expensive natural disaster ever to occur in this nation. In the aftermath of the storm, which destroyed large swaths of the city and displaced huge numbers of New Orleans residents, in addition to killing over 1,800 people, great crowds of out-of-town workers swarmed into the city. With little to do on their off time being that few businesses were open, many flocked to the casinos, bringing a windfall to casino properties all along the coastline, according to studies cited by the Press of Atlantic City.

Now, casinos in Atlantic City, which was hard-hit by last fall’s Superstorm Sandy, are hoping for a similar stroke of luck as tens of millions of federal relief dollars are poised to begin pouring into New Jersey. Congress is close to authorizing over $50 million in Sandy Relief to eastern states pummeled by the massive storm.

David Rosen, Legislative Budget and Finance Officer for the state of New Jersey, has already conferred with Louisiana representatives to learn more about the effects the post-Katrina landscape had on the gaming industry in that region.

Said Rosen, “One of the points my counterpart in Louisiana made was that there was this incredible influx of out-of-state construction people who came in for the rebuilding process, which had an enormously positive effect on the Louisiana casino revenue fund, which soared as these folks had nowhere else to spend the money.”

Many of the gulf region casinos escaped Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed and were able to re-open a short time after the storm, resulting in revenue increases in the months following the storm. New Jersey casinos may not see the same results, pointed out Rosen, as relief for Katrina victims began to be dispersed quickly following the storm whereas Congress has yet to allocate the relief funds for Sandy victims in New York and New Jersey, despite the fact that the storm occurred nearly three months ago.

“The money has flowed into Louisiana faster than it has flowed into New Jersey. I don’t know exactly how comparable it is going to be in terms of the time frame,” Rosen said.

In other New Jersey gambling news, Governor Chris Christie appeared on local radio station WKXW 101.5 FM last week and expressed some concerns with the Internet gambling bill currently sitting on his desk. The legislation, passed by lawmakers late last year, would permit online poker in the state in addition to other forms of regulated Internet wagering.

Christie vetoed a similar bill in 2011, and in his radio interview last week would not say whether he intends to sign it. Should he choose neither to veto nor sign the bill, it would automatically go into effect. Christie has until February 7 to make up his mind.

As we previously reported, a bid that online poker room PokerStars has made to purchase a land-based casino in Atlantic City, the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, relies upon the enactment of the law. PokerStars is said to have submitted an offer of less than $50 million to acquire the dilapidated property, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

We will continue to provide updates to the status of the Internet gambling bill in New Jersey, so be sure to check back for future news relating to this topic.

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