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Atlantic city casinos find elusive black ink

Jun 17, 2008 7:02 PM

Staff & Wire Reports | Atlantic City reported a rare increase in gaming revenues as the city’s 11 casinos won $415.3 million from gamblers in May, about 1.6 percent more than they took in a year ago.

It was only the third time in the last 17 months that revenues increased.

Over the past year, Atlantic City has struggled with competition from slot parlors in Pennsylvania and New York, higher gas prices and a new smoking ban.

The casinos were assisted this May with 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. "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."

Mirroring Nevada casinos’ results (see page 1 story), a decline in slot revenue was offset by an increase in revenue from table games. Atlantic City slots won $289.6 million, a 1.5 percent drop from a year ago, while table games won $125.7 million, a 9.5 percent increase.

The biggest winner was the Trump Taj Mahal, where revenue was up 11.4 percent over last May.

"Every time I say we’ve turned the corner, I jinx myself," said Mark Juliano, CEO of Trump Resorts. "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 economy and soaring gas prices may still limit Atlantic City’s hoped 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 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 and the Atlantic City Hilton were each up 0.9 percent in May.

The biggest decline was at Caesars (down 4.7 percent), where a large number of hotel rooms were out of service for renovation. Bally’s was down 3.3 percent, and the Showboat was down 1.9 percent.

The Tropicana, which is currently on the auction block, was down 1.4 percent; and Trump Marina, which is being sold to a New York casino developer and singer Jimmy Buffett, was down 1.1 percent.

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 was down 1.7 percent while revenue from table games was up slightly at 0.1 percent for the first five months.