According to Jane Bokunewicz, faculty director of Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism, Stockton University School of Business, July’s gaming numbers, released Aug. 16 by the Division of Gaming Enforcement, “showed indications of a strong summer season fueled by a return to normal operations and consumer behavior.”
With a reported figure of $299 million, July 2022 brick-and-mortar gaming revenues exceeded July 2021 by 8%.
“Unlike last summer, Atlantic City casinos in 2022 are operating without official public health restrictions, which were still in place at the start of summer 2021,” Bokunewicz explained. “There also isn’t the ‘COVID-19 drag’ of persistent public health concerns that kept some visitors from returning to pre-pandemic behaviors even after an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency in New Jersey.”
Bokunewicz said those July brick-and-mortar figures are a hopeful indication that a pre-pandemic growth trend may be back on track.
“Seven months in, 2022 leads 2019 for total brick-and-mortar casino revenue by 4.4% and, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, there seems to be a real chance that 2022 year-end brick-and-mortar casino revenue will exceed 2019,” said Bokunewicz.
Despite some plateauing of internet gambling – which has been red-hot and is still high ($136.7 million), but may be cooling off for the season – July 2022 marked the strongest total casino industry revenue performance, excluding racetracks, since 2011.
“At $453.1 million, July 2022 beat out July 2021 ($416.3 million) to set a new near-term record for single month industry total gaming revenue,” said Bokunewicz. “Year-to-date 2022 total industry gaming revenue exceeds 2021 by 8.9% and, with another 40% at least of revenue still to be earned in 2022, indications seem to favor another year-end revenue total of over $4 billion.”
Recent data from the South Jersey Transportation Authority suggests a promising, but still incomplete, recovery when it comes to visitation to the city. While traffic through the Pleasantville Toll Plaza of the Atlantic City Expressway has increased 6.3% in the first half of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021, the count lags pre-pandemic levels by nearly 15%.
“It is unclear if a portion of the lower vehicle counts may be attributable to less trip by locals who may be working from home or car-pooling to combat high gas prices, or drivers opting not to use the expressway due to a recent increase in the price of tolls,” said Bokunewicz.
But she says data provided by Meet AC show that meetings, conventions and trade shows are back in full swing this summer. That reality, combined with the July brick-and-mortar numbers, is a cause for optimism in Atlantic City.
“With brick-and-mortar revenue exceeding pre-pandemic levels the lower vehicle counts do not seem to be influencing economic activity at the casinos,” said Bokunewicz.