ATLANTIC CITY — The resort’s nine casinos surpassed $3 billion in annual total gaming revenue last month, a milestone the industry has not met in several years.
Atlantic City casinos reported just shy of $288.6 million in total gaming revenue in November, an increase of 16.5% over the same period last year, according to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. November 2019 had one more Saturday than in 2018.
Year-to-date, the industry has reported $3.02 billion in revenue, an increase of 15.7% over 2018 through 11 months.
The $3 billion generated by the casinos in 2019 is significant for Atlantic City because it triggers an increase in the amount of payment in lieu of taxes the city receives from them. Based on state legislation passed in 2016, Atlantic City will receive $152 million from the nine properties for the 2020 budget, an increase of $20 million from the most recent casino tax payment.
The downside for the city is that the revenue benchmark also triggers a crediting mechanism that reduces the amount of investment alternative tax, or IAT, funds by nearly $14 million that the city is statutorily mandated to use for debt payments.
Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, the agency with direct oversight of Atlantic City, said officials “foresaw the situation, planned for it appropriately, and (are) in a good position to prepare a 2020 budget that is stable and works to keep Atlantic City affordable for working families while providing necessary public services.”
While acknowledging the city would be in a less than ideal situation as a result of the industry’s success, Mayor Marty Small Sr. praised the overall accomplishment.
“I know there were a lot of naysayers around 2014 who thought that we would never get to this level,” Small said. “We are far from the level of $5.2 billion that we were in 2006, but this is a step in the right direction.”
The industry last reported more than $3 billion in gaming revenue in 2012 ($3.05 billion), when there were 12 casinos and online gambling and sports wagering had not yet been introduced.
In 2018, Atlantic City’s total gaming revenue was $2.86 billion. After dipping to $2.56 billion in annual gaming revenue in 2015, the industry began trending upward, and 2019 marks the fourth consecutive year of market increases.
The addition of two properties in 2018 — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort — and the introduction of legalized sports betting and the continued growth of online gaming all contributed to the revenue gains in 2019.
Total gaming revenue has increased for 18 consecutive months, beginning in June 2018 with the dual casino openings.
James Plousis, chairman of the Casino Control Commission, said it was “gratifying” for state regulators to “see another month of growth in Atlantic City.”
“All areas of the business, including slots, table games, internet wagering and sports wagering, outperformed last year and contributed to a combined increase,” Plousis said. “Importantly, this growth was not solely because two casinos reopened in 2018. The seven preexisting casinos reported a combined increase of $30 million, or 14.4%, indicating that there are opportunities for all of the operators to compete in this market.”
Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, said the industry “continues to surpass its revenue numbers largely due to the diversification of its revenue base, transforming from a gaming-centric market to a destination resort catering to multiple market segments offering gaming and non-gaming activities and services.”
Online gaming revenue increased 82.4% to $49 million in November.
Sports betting added $15.5 million to Atlantic City’s overall revenue last month. Statewide, gamblers put down more than $562 million in sports wagers in November, a new monthly record. Year-to-date, more than $4 billion has been legally wagered on sports in New Jersey.