It’s a new year, and Atlantic City casino operators are hoping for an even better one in 2018. Fresh off the town’s second consecutive annual gaming win, invested companies are hopeful that the trend will continue up and down the Boardwalk and into the Marina District.
After enduring nine years of declines between 2007 and 2015, which led to five casinos closing, gaming dollars are returning to the beachfront city.
December 2017 gaming numbers will be released later this month. Should the casinos keep on a growth pace similar to their January through November 2.4 percent increase rate, total win for the year will come in around $2.67 billion. That would mark Atlantic City’s best take since 2009.
Resorts Casino CEO Mark Giannantonio told the Associated Press this week that he’s “extremely optimistic” about 2018.
“We’re very excited about the renaissance of Atlantic City. We think it’s for real,” Giannantonio stated.
The financial rebound is fueling new investment.
Hard Rock is spending over $500 million to reimagine the former Trump Taj Mahal into a rock ‘n’ roll-themed resort. MGM Resorts and Caesars both promised multimillion-dollar project improvements last summer, ongoing rumors about a Revel sale persist, and Carl Icahn seems ready to unload the Atlantic Club for the right price.
Hard Rock Coming
Atlantic City will return to an eight-casino town when Hard Rock opens this summer. And a ninth may come to fruition should Glenn Straub sell Revel. Moody’s Investors Service reports that transaction is in the process, with a Colorado-based investment group as the buyer.
The obvious concern is trying to determine whether Atlantic City can support two new casino floors. Some analysts called the five casino closures between 2014 and 2016 a “right-sizing” for the town. Giannantonio admits the openings could cause “a short-term blip.”
Hard Rock announced its $50 million acquisition of the shuttered Taj Mahal just four months after learning that gambling in New Jersey would remain confined to Atlantic City. New Jersey voters strongly defeated a ballot referendum in November 2016 that would have ended Atlantic City’s gaming monopoly in the state and allowed the construction of two integrated casino resorts at least 72 miles outside the city.
Another reason for enthusiasm is the US Supreme Court’s potential repeal of the federal sports betting ban. Should the high court come down on New Jersey’s side, likely sometime this spring, Atlantic City casinos could have sportsbooks up and running in 2018.
New Political Leadership
2018 marks the beginning of several new tenures in governmental positions that directly impact Atlantic City.
Phil Murphy (D) will officially replace Chris Christie (R) as governor on January 16. Christie led the financial takeover of Atlantic City in 2016, which continues to this day. But Murphy is expected to soon hand back the city’s power after taking office in Trenton.
Atlantic City’s mayoral duties now belong to Democrat Frank Gilliam, who replaced Don Guardian (R) after he served just one term. The Casino Control Commission also received a new leader, as James Plousis took over the chair position from Matthew Levinson the day after Christmas 2017.