New Jersey’s nine casinos were allowed to reopen their brick and mortar locations for the first time in months starting in July, and data from the state’s gaming enforcement reflected a “devastating” blow the pandemic wielded on the industry.
Data published Monday afternoon by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which oversees the state’s gambling industry, showed that during the third quarter, the state’s casinos took in $629.3 million of net revenue, a 32.3% decrease from the $929 million made last year. Those three months – July, August and September – crossover with when casinos could resume in-person operations at the start of July, and when they could resume indoor dining at the start of September.
All but one casino, Borgata Hotel Casino, opened at the start of the month – the state’s largest casino said their decision to remain closed stemmed from Gov. Phil Murphy’s order to delay indoor dining past June 29.
The South Jersey resort laid off 2,295 workers over the summer, on top of another 73 staff earlier this month.
“The current public health crisis has both suppressed consumer demand for brick & mortar casino gaming and related amenities, and increased the costs of operating these services,” Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said in a Monday email. “This is a devastating equation for casino operators.”
Casinos are only allowed to operate at 25% capacity in order to allow for 6-foot physical distancing. Slot machines are spaced apart, and card tables have plexiglass installed to separate patrons from the dealers. Amenities are frequently sanitized.
Face coverings are required at all times and now with a second wave of the virus outbreaking, the casinos can no longer offer indoor dining after 10 p.m.
“Reopening with prudent restrictions on capacity, limited amenities and entertainment hindered earnings but allowed for responsible management of the casino hotels, minimizing risk and building a foundation for a successful recovery,” James Plousis, who chairs the Casino Control Commission, said on Monday.
None of the recent outbreaks have been traced back to the state’s casinos, according to Murphy. As such, there would likely not be any additional restrictions on them in the near future.
But the scaled-down operations, despite major spending cuts, have led to a “staggering impact” from the “pandemic-related closures,” Bokunewicz said.
The casinos were able to stay afloat during the height of the pandemic and in the months since reopening, thanks to online gambling and sports betting.
The sprawling conference, events management, restaurant and hospitality industries have been held back by capacity restrictions. Online gaming is simply not an adequate long-term “substitute,” Bokunewicz said.
Borgata Hotel and Casino took the largest hit between July and September this year, compared to the same time last year, when they experienced a 64.9% drop in net revenue. They made $234 million in 2019, compared to over $82 million this year.
Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City took a 37.5% hit between 2019 and 2020, making $109 million during the three-month period last year compared to $68.2 million this past summer.
Tropicana Atlantic City was dealt a 30.9% blow during its first three months of reopening: they made $103 million in 2019 compared to $71.4 million this year.
Ocean Resort Casino fared better, experiencing only a 2.9% hit, making almost $80 million in 2019 compared to $77.5 million in 2020. They’ve consistently been one of the only two that actually fared better at their casino floors this year, the other being Hard Rock Casino Hotel Atlantic City.
Gaming data showed Hard Rock still felt a 22.5% loss in revenue: $128 million in 2019 compared to $99.5 million this summer.