NJ casinos see April-May surge in activity amid reopenings

Daniel J. Munoz//June 17, 2021

NJ casinos see April-May surge in activity amid reopenings

Daniel J. Munoz//June 17, 2021

With New Jersey’s casinos reopening ahead of Memorial Day in May, its nine brick and mortar gambling establishments reported soaring profits between the months of April and May, according to state gaming regulators.

The numbers released June 16 by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show casinos faring better in all areas this past month: sports betting, online gambling and winnings on the casino floor.

Atlantic City’s nine brick and mortar casinos won $189.6 million on the floor in April, compared to $213 million in May. Total gaming revenue climbed from $320.6 million in April to $337.2 million in May.

James Plousis, who heads another state regulatory body, the Casino Control Commission, said in a June 16 statement that the May numbers were “promising,” and that they were “an indication that tourists are returning to Atlantic City.”

“The market’s momentum is pointing toward a great summer,” he continued.

Under the biggest reopenings, the indoor mask mandate and 6-foot social distancing rules were lifted on May 28 for anyone fully vaccinated. Then on June 4, limits were rolled back for indoor gatherings and live venues, as well as indoor commercial events such as trade shows, conferences, expos and conventions.

Jane Bokunewicz, Institute Coordinator & Associate Professor of Hospitality, Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.

The sprawling 500,000-square-foot Atlantic City Convention Center said it would fully reopen on June 4 for in-person events, as did many in-person events at the casinos, which host live entertainment and massive conferences.

“A shared desire to get out and do things made even a rainy Memorial Day weekend a success for city businesses,” said Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.

“Atlantic City’s tourism operators appear to be rolling out a full schedule of events and entertainment as they would in any pre-pandemic year,” she said.

‘Bullish on Atlantic City’

The sprawling dining, hospitality, entertainment, events and conference industries all suffered during the pandemic, in which all nine casinos had to shutter their brick and mortar operation, driving Atlantic City’s unemployment rate to one of the highest in the nation.

During those months, the casinos relied almost entirely on online gambling and sports betting. The degree to which those consumer habits will wane still remains to be seen.

Eric Ramsey, analyst, PlayNJ.com.

“Even as Atlantic City lifts pandemic-related limits and retail revenue slowly returns, online casinos continue to hold onto the gains made over the last year,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for the online publication PlayNJ.com. “Online revenue has clearly been resilient, but hopefully the retail market can sustain this return to pre-pandemic levels.”

The casinos saw $108 million in online revenue in May 2021, compared to nearly $86 million in May 2020.

Now with the reopening, summer tourism surges and post-COVID pent-up demand, the casinos are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new dining, hotel, gambling and entertainment amenities.

“We remain bullish on Atlantic City, and this commitment will further position us for long-term growth and success,” reads an April 21 statement from Anthony Carana, chief operating officer at Caesars Entertainment, which owns three of the casinos.

Boardwalk attractions, amusement rides, games, dining and entertainment located along the Atlantic City boardwalk all can be enjoyed outside. And according to Bokunewicz, the heavier emphasis on outdoor amenities might simply reflect a shift in consumer preferences rather than an aversion to being indoors as was the case for most of the pandemic.