Atlantic City Tourism Growing, Gaming Expert Says Region Stable

Posted on: October 2, 2018, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: October 2, 2018, 12:09h.

After years of economic struggle, Atlantic City is “stable.” That’s according to Stockton University Hospitality and Tourism Management Studies professor Dr. Brian Tyrrell, who believes key tourism indicators suggest the region is capable of supporting nine casinos and is positioned for growth.

Atlantic City tourism casinos Ocean Resort
The opening of Ocean Resort and Hard Rock are two reasons why the Atlantic City tourism outlook is trending positive. (Image: Seth Wenig/Wayne Parry/AP)

Tyrrell’s comments come in Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism’s second quarter review of tourism performance indicators. The publication found that lodging and parking fees increased across Atlantic County between April through June.

Hotel receipts increased by six percent in June, while parking charges climbed two percent. The data points are critical in analyzing tourism traffic in Atlantic City and throughout the county.

The increases are of course positive news, as Hard Rock and Ocean Resort didn’t open until June 28. The Boardwalk casinos generated a buzz in Atlantic City not experienced in many years, and along with it came an influx of visitors.

True Test Ahead

Casino Association of New Jersey President Kevin Ortzman, who is also Caesars Entertainment’s regional boss who oversees the company’s three casinos, said recently, “The summer of 2018 was the best summer in recent years for Atlantic City.”

Indeed, gross gambling revenue (GGR) was up seven percent in June, 13 percent in July, and 24 percent in August. The two new properties pushed total employment in the gaming industry to over 30,000 workers for the first time in more than four years.

But as the fanfare from the openings ended, and the days get shorter and temperatures cooler, casinos will be battling for customers in the months ahead. Of utmost concern is the fact that in July and August, the first two full months with nine casinos in operation, the seven previous properties all won less money compared with 2017.

“We will be able to better gauge the impact of these openings when the third quarter results become available. The early results still bode well for the resorts,” Tyrrell said.

City Remains Under Supervision

There are reasons to believe that Atlantic City’s most fiscally troubling days are in its past, but New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) isn’t ready to hand back governance to local officials.

Last month, Murphy, who campaigned on promising to return Atlantic City’s control to the city government, backpedaled on that commitment.

Though he admitted “Atlantic City is on the rise,” the first-term governor added, “I don’t want to see this great and historical city on the mat again. This is not the end of our efforts. This is just the beginning.”

The state took control of Atlantic City in 2016 under Gov. Chris Christie (R) after it fell more than $500 million in debt and threatened the credit ratings of numerous regional towns. Murphy said the gaming town will remain there until 2021, which was the original expiration set under the Christie administration.

Investment services firm Moody’s believes Murphy’s decision is in the best interest of Atlantic City. “State control has had a strong, positive effect on the city’s financial position, which remains weak,” the outlet said in a note.