Atlantic City’s fiscal mood dims in 24 hours

Jan 7, 2003 2:56 AM

BY GT STAFF / WIRE REPORTS

The New Year’s Eve celebration in Atlantic City turned into depression the following day.

The city’s dozen casinos reported a 9.7 percent decline in gross gambling revenue for December, according to figures obtained by The Press of Atlantic City.

Casinos won just over $314 million from gamblers last month, some $33 million less than the amount collected over the same period last year.

"I don’t think any of us expected to match last year," said David Jonas, Harrah’s Atlantic City general manager. "But this was still a pretty big drop."

Gamblers also improved their results at the gaming tables. Casinos kept 15 percent of the money exchanged, compared to 15.8 in 2001. Bad weather, the weak economy and an unfavorable calendar were other factors listed for the losses.

"You never like to see a big negative decline, but at the end of the day you have to keep in perspective that last year was truly unique," said David Anders, an analyst for Merrill Lynch.

Anders said he’s expecting similar declines when Midwest casino markets report their revenue later this month.

Atlantic City is hoping for a comeback year with the opening of the new 2,002-room Borgata this summer. The Borgata is the first casino hotel built in Atlantic City in 13 years.

In other gaming news around the city: Harrah’s Entertainment was forced by gaming regulators last week to remove 109 slots machines from its hotels for not being upgraded or replaced.

There is a 12-year regulatory life before slots expire. The hotels involved are Harrah’s Atlantic City and Showboat.

2 is enough

In Connecticut, apparently having Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casino resorts is enough.

The Bridgeport area is having a difficult time convincing officials and the general public that a third casino is worth building. The Paugussetts tribe is negotiating with city officials over a casino and is awaiting word from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in regard to gaining recognition.

Waterbury has also shown some interest in building a casino, but residents in the city’s South End have also been vocal in opposing the plan.

Kentucky pushes slots

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association is using a billboard in the capital city of Frankfort to convince the General Assembly that video slots are necessary to the industry.

The billboard informs passing motorists that horses represent a $3.4 billion industry for Kentucky. Backers hope the sign gets across the real message that horse racing needs assistance to make money.

Speaking of clubs...

Speaking Rock, the casino forced to shut down in El Paso, is enjoying a revival in the West Texas city as a nightclub.

The club attracted about 1,500 party-goers during a recent evening. The Tiguas Tribe operated Speaking Rock before the state ordered the gaming site to close last summer.