Indicators of Atlantic City’s tourism and convention business showed encouraging signs in October, offering hope even as year-over-year casino revenue again fell, according to new figures from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
Hotel room occupancy and visiting delegate totals through October were up 121 percent and 693 percent, respectively, from the same period last year, the authority reported Thursday. The gains took place even as the number of convention and trade shows grew by a modest 3 percent.
CRDA, via the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, also reported that delegate spending through 10 months was up 275 percent from 2010, totaling nearly $46 million so far this year.
The monthly tourism barometer — which also tracks visitors at the resort city’s welcome center, traffic on the city’s website and transportation activity — was released as state gaming officials on Thursday reported another loss in casino revenue. The nongaming figures have been given newfound attention in recent months as the state seeks to transform the city from simply gambling city to a broader tourism destination.
“The (numbers) are very, very important, because gambling itself is a commodity that many nearby states have,” said Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Richard Stockton College. “What’s unique about Atlantic City is the critical mass of entertainment that is available in the city. … You’re going to see much more of that story being told.”
Posner said the numbers were encouraging, given that group and convention business is critical to “rounding out the performance” of the city and filling in a gap in midweek business. That mindset has prompted a renewed focus on developing Atlantic City International Airport, he said.
Traffic at the airport was down for the first time this year because of flight reductions by Spirit Airlines, which underwent a mandated overhaul in October, the convention authority reported. A rebound is expected in November.
The authority also reported 11,200 people came to the Atlantic City Visitor Welcome Center last month, an 18 percent increase from October 2010. Visitors to www.atlanticcitynj.com increased by 33 percent from October 2011 to October 2010. Of the 253,270 visitors during the month, 179,062 were new, the authority said.
Casino numbers drop, again
The Division of Gaming Enforcement announced Thursday total casino winnings in October fell 7.9 percent from this time last year, to $261.7 million. Posner said slot winnings, which fell 4.1 percent, were more telling than table game winnings.
“The slot win is a much better indicator of the stability of the gambling win or loss in Atlantic City — or in any casino market — because it’s not subject to the volatility of the table play,” he said.
But Posner also said Thursday’s gaming report was positive news for Resorts, where new owners formally took over in July. The city’s oldest gaming hall saw October casino winnings increase by 9 percent, or about $1.1 million, from the same month last year.