In the wake of this week’s 17-company New York State casino license filing, which we reported on earlier, comes good news/bad news, depending on if you are New York State or New Jersey. That’s because 12 percent of New Jersey’s gamblers will take their casino gambling to New York once the Empire State’s new casinos are up and running there, according to a new poll. It’s concerning for the New Jersey casino industry, which has already seen its revenue slide in recent years, due largely to competition from neighboring Pennsylvania.
In 2006, New Jersey’s casino revenues were at an all-time high of $5.2 billion, but have since dropped to just $2.86 billion in 2013. 2006 was also the year that the first new casinos and racinos open in Pennsylvania, and since then the Keystone State has supplanted its neighbor as America’s second-biggest casino market, right after #1 spot Nevada.
The poll, a telephone survey of 907 New Jersey adults conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University, found that while 12 percent said they would definitely make the switch, 57 percent said they would stay loyal to New Jersey. The remaining 31 percent either said they did not know or didn’t answer the question. The poll allows for a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
“Twelve Percent Could be Devastating”
Now while it might not sound like that much, that 12 percent hit could be calamitous to the ailing New Jersey market, says Fairleigh Dickinson.
“Atlantic City casinos have to be happy that they’re not facing wholesale defection,” said the aptly named Dan Cassino, Fairleigh Dickinson political scientist and an analyst for the poll. “But even the loss of 12 percent of their customers, on top of what they’ve already lost, could be devastating.”
However, Casino Association of New Jersey president Kevin Ortzman, who also presides over Caesars, Bally’s and the Showboat casinos, was adopting an optimistic interpretation of the statistics.
“The results of this poll underscore that our visitors return to Atlantic City time and again because it remains the heart of gaming, world-class entertainment and many great experiences in New Jersey and the entire region,” he said. “I believe as we continue to diversify with non-gaming amenities and experiences, we’ll not only retain the customer base, but grow through the new and exciting offerings and experiences Atlantic City will offer.”
New York State currently has nine tribal casinos and nine racinos; however, voters chose to expand casino gambling in their environs following a referendum in November 2013. Four licenses for resort-style casinos are up for grabs and a competitive bidding process is underway, with casino companies vying for the right to develop projects in three separate regions: Albany-Saratoga region, the Catskills, and the Southern Tier.
Twenty-two groups initially paid the $1million application fee to compete for a license although several have since dropped out. Among them are some big players, including Caesars, which wants to build a $750 million development 50 miles north of Manhattan, despite owning four of Atlantic City’s 11 casinos. Meanwhile, Genting wants to open a resort in Tuxedo, just 42 miles from Times Square.
“The proposals for the new casinos come from heavy hitters, and they want to open as near to New York City as the state will let them,” said Cassino. “They’re expecting a return on their investments, and they’re going to be very aggressive about taking the New York customers away from Atlantic City.”