Atlantic City, New Jersey casinos picking up steam without COVID-19 pandemic restrictions

The casino industry's national trade group says U.S. casinos just had their best second quarter ever.
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- American casinos are on track to have a record-breaking year according to the American Gaming Association, making a big comeback after the pandemic shutdown.

The casino industry's national trade group says U.S. casinos just had their best second quarter ever, bringing in $13.6 billion.

Gaming experts in Atlantic City say local casinos are also having a banner year.

According to data from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, total gaming revenues this year are up by 33% compared to this point in 2019, and that includes online gaming.

If we look at in-person casino revenue, it's down about 12% compared to 2019.

Jane Bokunewicz, with the Levinson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, says there's a reason for that.

"When they lifted the restrictions (this spring) a lot of the amenities still had not returned to normal. Like the concerts, the shows, the conventions. All the special events had just started coming back online," Bokunewicz said.

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She says now that most restrictions have lifted in Atlantic City's casinos. She expects strong numbers for the rest of the year.

"From February on, each month was a little better than the previous month, so people are returning to the casinos and we've seen that the internet gaming has stabilized," said Bokunewicz.

We found folks who say there's no substitute for in-person gambling.

"We don't happen to do online. I like being out. I enjoy the entertainment of it," said Diane Murray of Sayreville, N.J.

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We also found people who waited until they were vaccinated to come back.

"We're all vaccinated so I feel a little more comfortable," said Diane Hahn of Bangor, Pa.

While unvaccinated people are strongly encouraged to wear masks in many of the casinos, it's not required for fully vaccinated guests.

Angel West of South Philadelphia made her way down the boardwalk in Atlantic City on Thursday afternoon, stopping to play slots at various casinos along the way.

She says it seems crowded on the casino floors now, as they operate at full capacity, so she keeps her mask on.

"That's what scares me because you never know who has the COVID and who don't, or the new variant. So I still wear mine," said West.

A percentage of the gaming revenues from New Jersey casinos help to fund state and local health and human services programs.
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