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Atlantic City threatened by NYC, Meadowlands casinos

LawAtlantic City threatened by NYC, Meadowlands casinos

Atlantic City casinos are facing threats on multiple fronts from new competitors not just in New York, but from within their own state.

That’s not great news for a seaside resort in which the amount of money won from in-person gamblers continues to lag, with seven of the nine casinos winning less from on-premises customers than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

At the East Coast Gaming Congress Thursday at the Hard Rock casino, numerous executives from some of the major casino companies in America acknowledged the opportunity of three downstate New York casino licenses — and the risk they will present to Atlantic City.

And the operator of a racetrack in northern New Jersey, just outside New York City, told The Associated Press he believes New Jersey voters will authorize construction of a casino in the Meadowlands shortly after New York casinos open and New Jersey gamblers tire of paying bridge tolls and sitting in traffic to get to gambling halls in New York.

“Now more than ever we know there’s a threat coming with New York City gaming coming,” Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small said at the conference. “We understand the threat. We want to continue to work together to do things right to put Atlantic City into a prime position, no matter where these casinos are, that we diversify our options.”

Photo via Townsquare Media

Photo via Townsquare Media

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, is straddling both markets.

His company operates a casino in Atlantic City that is the second-most successful in the market. And Hard Rock is partnering with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen on a proposed $8 billion casino complex at Citi Field in the city’s Queens section.

If as many as three casino open in or close to New York City, Allen said, Atlantic City’s in-person gambling revenues could fall by 20% to 30%.

“We have to be prepared for that,” he told attendees at the conference.

Allen said Atlantic City’s Hard Rock will weather the storm of New York competition. But he said he does not want to see any competitors in the city close, throwing 2,000 to 3,000 people out of work in a repetition of a wave of casino closings in Atlantic City from 2014 to 2016 that saw five casinos close. Two have since reopened under new ownership.

Tom Reeg. CEO of Caesars Entertainment, which owns three of Atlantic City’s nine casinos, also said New York casinos will be a challenge. His company, too, is seeking a New York casino license with SL Green, and Roc Nation in Times Square.

“We’re pursuing that license with fervor,” Reeg said. “I share Jim’s concern about where the (Atlantic City) market is headed as we head into New York.”

Bally’s Atlantic City

Bally’s Atlantic City (Bally’s)

Soo Kim, chairman of Bally’s Corporation, which has a casino in Atlantic City, said table games revenue from New York gamblers “will be harder to attract” once casinos open in New York City. “With casinos in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, there’s casinos everywhere.”

He said New Jersey can rely on its robust internet gambling market to offset some expected losses.

Concerns don’t end with New York.

Jeff Gural runs the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey, just outside New York City, along with the Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs racetrack casinos in upstate New York.

He also has a deal with Hard Rock to build a casino at the Meadowlands Racetrack — a proposal that was put on the back burner when New Jersey voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum on expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City in 2016.

“I’m just waiting for New York to open,” Gural said in an interview. “People will say, ‘Why am I driving over the George Washington Bridge and paying an $18 toll and sitting in traffic to go gamble?’”

Gural said the 2016 referendum failed largely because it was written to permit more than one casino in northern New Jersey without specifying where.

“People don’t want a casino in the neighborhood,” Gural said. “If we make it clear it’s only at the Meadowlands, common sense tells you there will be a casino in the Meadowlands.”

Gural said that will happen in “a lot sooner than 10 years.”

Mark Giannantonio, president of Atlantic City’s Resorts casino and of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said during Wednesday’s opening day session of the convention that Atlantic City views New York casinos as a threat.

“New Jersey has to be prepared for this, to make Atlantic City more attractive for people to visit, and there’s a lot of work to do,” he said. “Table games clearly will be impacted.”

He said Atlantic City has a “two-year window” to prepare for New York competition by cleaning itself up, improving its infrastructure, and assigning more police to the Boardwalk and other areas so visitors see a visible law enforcement presence. He also said Atlantic City needs to solve its problem with homelessness.

But Giannantonio said Atlantic City can survive the advent of new competition in an already cutthroat northeastern casino market.

“I’m always going to rely on hotel, entertainment, retail and the experience on the casino floor,” he said. “I believe in my heart that Atlantic City, with some hard work, will be an opportunity. We’re excited about the future.”

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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