AC casino revenues up 1.6 pct in May

June 10, 2008 1:12:36 PM PDT
An extra weekend made the difference between an up month and a down one for Atlantic City's 11 casinos last month. Figures released Tuesday afternoon by the state Casino Control Commission show that the gambling halls took in 1.6 percent more this May than they did in May 2007.

The rare bit of welcome news marked only the third time in the last 17 months that revenues were up in a resort still struggling with competition from slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York, higher gas prices that may be deterring some would-be gamblers, and the worsening economy.

The casinos were helped this May by an extra Friday and Saturday, typically the busiest days of the week for a gambling hall.

"The calendar was on our side this month, but we'll take it," said Larry Mullin, president of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. "We've had a series of months where it's been in decline as an industry, and it's good to see some positive news."

A 1.5 percent drop in slot revenue was more than offset by a 9.5 percent increase in revenue from table games. The casinos won $289.6 million at the slot machines and another $125.7 million at table games for a total of $415.3 million in May.

The biggest winner was the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, where revenue was up 11.4 percent over last May, to $44.7 million.

"Every time I say we've turned the corner, I jinx myself," Mark Juliano, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, said of Atlantic City's performance in May. "But we had a very strong Memorial Day weekend, which helped. We're looking forward to a really strong summer."

Juliano cautioned that the worsening national economy and soaring gas prices may still choke off Atlantic City's budding turnaround this year. He said the solution to that is to market the resort as an affordable alternative to expensive vacations abroad.

"Atlantic City is a very economical getaway for people who might otherwise have taken a European vacation or a cross-country trip this year," he said.

Harrah's Atlantic City reported a 9.8 percent revenue increase, to $47.4 million. The Borgata was up 4.9 percent to $64.2 million.

Trump Plaza Hotel Casino ($23.3 million) and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort ($24.9 million) were each up 0.9 percent in May.

The biggest decline was at Caesars Atlantic City (down 4.7 percent to $46.3 million), where a large number of hotel rooms are out of service for a renovation. Bally's Atlantic City was down 3.3 percent to $53.1 million; and the Showboat Casino Hotel was down 1.9 percent to $35.2 million.

The Tropicana Casino and Resort, which opened a new Havana-themed Rooftop Slots area in May, was down 1.4 percent to $33.8 million; and Trump Marina Hotel Casino, which is being sold to a New York casino developer teamed with singer Jimmy Buffett, was down 1.1 percent to $19.4 million.

The casinos paid $33.2 million in taxes on their gross revenues in May. That 8 percent levy goes into the Casino Revenue Fund which pays for programs that benefit senior citizens and people with disabilities.

In addition, the casinos incurred another $5.2 million in state-mandated reinvestment obligations.

For the first five months of this year, casinos won $1.9 billion, down 5 percent from the same period in 2007. Revenue from slot machines is down 7.1 percent, and revenue from table games is up less than 0.1 percent for the five months.