Atlantic City's 11 casinos posted a 19.2 percent drop in revenue last month, the biggest monthly decline in the state's 30-year history of legalized gambling.
Every casino in the city saw a decline, most by 20 percent or more and some by nearly 30 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Casino Control Commission.
The numbers provide further evidence that the recession and stiff competition from slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York are putting a beating on the nation's second-largest casino market. Three casinos here are in bankruptcy, a fourth is headed there and a fifth is fighting off foreclosure because it can't pay its bank loans.
Commissioner Michael Epps said the severity of the decline was surprising.
"The gaming industry requires disposable income for people to make it happen," he said. "Right now, people are having to make choices between paying the bills, and spending money on other things."
The casinos won $214.3 million at the slot machines, down 19 percent from February 2008, and $96 million at table games, down nearly 20 percent from a year ago.
How bad was February? The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa saw its revenue fall 5.8 percent, far and away the best performance of any Atlantic City casino for the month.
Caesars Atlantic City was down 29.6 percent, plagued by an unusually unlucky month at table games.
Large declines of 20 percent or more were common: Trump Plaza Hotel Casino was down 27.4 percent; the Atlantic City Hilton Casino and Resort 26.1 percent; the Showboat Casino Hotel 25.3 percent; Trump Marina Hotel Casino 24.2 percent; Resorts Atlantic City, which is fighting off a foreclosure bid by its lender, 24.1 percent; and Bally's Atlantic City 20.1 percent.
The Tropicana Casino and Resort, which will soon be sold at a bankruptcy auction, was down 19.2 percent; the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was down 17.4 percent; and Harrah's Resort Atlantic City was down 10.3 percent.
Part of the decline can be attributed to the fact that February of last year had an extra day due to leap year. February 2008 also had five Fridays, one of the best days of the week for casinos.
Atlantic City is now in the third year of a revenue downturn that began shortly after slots parlors opened in the Philadelphia suburbs in late 2006 and early 2007. Those gambling halls, which do not offer table games, nonetheless gave gamblers who once had little choice but to go to Atlantic City the option to play much closer to home.
A slots parlor at the Yonkers racetrack in New York is also siphoning off customers from northern New Jersey and New York City.
The previous record-setting monthly revenue decline in Atlantic City was set in December, when revenue was down 18.7 percent. Before that, September 2008 held the record, with a 15.1 percent decline.
For all of 2008, Atlantic City's casinos took 7.6 percent less from gamblers than they had in the previous year.