Atlantic City Fights Gaming Expansion in Neighboring States
On June 7th, 2009, for a number of years, Atlantic City could mostly ignore the three slot machine parlors at racing tracks in Delaware. But now, its neighboring state is stepping up its gaming offering, allowing sports wagers and soon, casino table games like blackjack and craps. That could hurt an already suffering Atlantic City, which is dealing with profit declines due to the financial crisis, slot machine facilities in Pennsylvania and New York and the smoking ban.
Some gaming analysts even believe that Delaware's gaming decisions could push Pennsylvania to feature full-blown casino facilities sooner than expected, which would create a catastrophe in Atlantic City. Joe Weinert, a casino gaming analyst of Spectrum Gaming Group, said that the thirty year monopoly of Atlantic City in casino table games will further be damage by the US's second biggest gaming market.
Weinert said that just as we are experiencing and seeing with slot machines, many players will skip Atlantic City to play craps and blackjack at a more accessible location. He said that Delaware's casino table games will have a negative effect on Atlantic City's already suffering gambling revenue. Casino table games are an inevitability in the state of Pennsylvania and it will surely affect Atlantic City's earnings.
Atlantic City's dilemma started after the first of the 8 Pennsylvania slot machine facilities opened in November 2006 and started attracting Atlantic City's casino table games customers. New York followed suit with slot machines at Yonkers horseracing tracks, and is considering offering them at the Aqueduct racing track in Queens.
The president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, Joe Corbo declined to comment on the ongoing casino gaming expansion issue. But Corbo previously said that the best option for Atlantic City to survive out-of-state competition is to offer things that most horse racing tracks do not have like hotels, entertainment options, gourmet restaurants and spas-which are made to keep people for several days.
Delaware's racing tracks started featuring slot machines in 1995 at Dover Downs and Casino in Dover and Delaware Park Racing track and Slots in Wilmington. Harrington Raceway and Casino in Harrington offered them the following year.
In 2008, Delaware's 7,800 slot machines produced $611.5 million, a trickle compared with Atlantic City's $4.5 billion gaming market. But they have courted players from southern New Jersey, even installing bulletin board on the Atlantic City Expressway so the vehicles heading away from Atlantic City will see the message: "Now you're heading in the right direction!" In approving the law permitting sports wagering last month, Delaware Governor Jack Markell said that his state will be the only one east of the Mississippi featuring the betting option.
Delaware estimates that it will earn $53.5 million on sports wagers next year. Ed Sutor, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Dover Downs said that depending on how quickly legislation is approved, the state of Delaware could be begin offering casino table games by New Year's Eve. Sutor said that his facility gets two percent of its players from New Jersey and states that Delaware casino table games would not make a serious effect in Atlantic City earnings.
What can persuade New Jersey players to bypass Atlantic City in favor of Delaware would be sports wagering. A New Jersey legislator, horse racing officials and an online gaming association are trying to change the ban on sports wagering for all but four states that beat the 1992 deadline to feature it in their states.