Atlantic City casinos face cloudy future

Add another nail to Atlantic City’s coffin.

Table games, which were operational for just part of July at Pennsylvania’s nine casinos, brought in more than $17.5 million in gaming revenue during the month.

The initial results led gaming analysts to believe that dire days await Atlantic City, where the city’s 11 casinos are in direct competition with full-fledged gaming in a neighboring state.

With Delaware’s racetrack casinos also adding table games, the outlook is not promising.

“In our opinion, Atlantic City revenues will continue to be cannibalized by Delaware and Pennsylvania as table games continue to be added and revenues at the properties continue to ramp up,” Union Gaming Group principal Bill Lerner said.

He estimated that Atlantic City’s annual gaming revenues, which were $3.9 billion in 2009, could drop 8 percent to $3.6 billion in 2010.

Shawn McCloud, director of analysis for New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group, went a step further, telling the Press of Atlantic City that table games in Pennsylvania’s casinos could develop into a $400 million annual market.

Atlantic City’s 11 casinos now have 1,600 blackjack, roulette, craps and other gaming tables. Pennsylvania’s nine casinos began with 624 table games in July, but additional casinos and tables are looming.

“I think we’re going to see tremendous growth in these numbers, as we did with the Pennsylvania slots over the past several years,” McCloud said.

Pennsylvania’s casinos introduced live table games on a staggered schedule, between July 8 and July 18. Revenue averaged out to $1,476 per gaming table per day, figures released late Thursday by the state’s Gaming Control Board show.

Three Las Vegas-based companies operate casinos in Pennsylvania.

Harrah’s Entertainment’s Chester Casino and Racetrack has 99 tables that averaged $1,423 win per unit per day for the 14 days they were open, collecting more than $1.97 million.

The 62 tables at the Meadows Racetrack, which is operated by Cannery Casinos, averaged $1,284 win per unit per day for the 24 days they were open, collecting $1.91 million.

The 89 tables at the Sands Casino Bethlehem, operated by Las Vegas Sands Corp., collected $1.65 million in 14 days, which averaged out to $1,328 win per day.

As a comparison, Strip casinos operated 3,295 table games during June, which averaged a win per unit per day of $1,518. The figure was the lowest monthly total this year. The high was in February, when Strip gaming tables averaged $3,566 win per unit per day.

Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Mike Lawton said it’s hard to compare Nevada’s table game numbers with Pennsylvania’s. Strip casinos operate high-end baccarat games that are included with the table games’ results and can skew the figures.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

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