Atlantic City casino win down 10.3 percent last month, but revenue up for current operators

Government And Institutions Associated Press

The take for Atlantic City's casino industry dropped in November, but officials say a closer look at the numbers offers hope in the form of higher winnings and more jobs at several of the remaining gambling halls.

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Figures released Friday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show how schizophrenic Atlantic City's gambling market has become, with positive and negative indicators vying for attention as the industry rapidly reshapes itself.

Compared with November 2013, when there were 12 casinos and Internet gambling was only days old, the Atlantic City casino market took in 10.3 percent less this November. But when only the eight casinos still operating are considered, those casinos' revenue increased by 11.5 percent.

Four casinos have closed so far this year, and a fifth, the Trump Taj Mahal, is set to join them on Dec. 20 unless a last-minute deal is reached.

"While these are difficult times and a lot of casino employees are out of work, several of the current operators have increased staff over last November's levels," said Matt Levinson, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. "These results show that the market is absorbing the impact of recent casino closures, and most of the current operators are improving."

The Borgata and Golden Nugget each have added about 250 more workers than they had a year ago, and the Tropicana has 120 more.

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The eight current casinos won $202 million in November, down 10.3 percent from the $225 million the industry won in November 2013 when there were 12.

But this November included a full month of Internet gambling revenue ($8.7 million); Internet gambling did not begin until Nov. 25, 2013 and its first weeks were plagued by technical and logistical issues.

Since it began a year ago, Internet gambling in New Jersey has taken in $120.4 million.

By far the biggest gainer was the Golden Nugget, whose overall November revenue was up more than 78 percent compared to a year ago, to $17.8 million. The Tropicana was up 24.5 percent to $23.1 million. Both offer online gambling.

Golden Nugget general manager Tom Pohlman repeated blistering criticism on Friday of a proposed state bill that would set payments in lieu of taxes for Atlantic City's casinos. Golden Nugget management says it will seek a court order to block the bill if it is enacted.

Designed to ease the burden on casinos and on Atlantic City's finances, the bill would raise the Golden Nugget's taxes from $4.7 million to $8.1 million, according to the casino.

"As ecstatic as we are to lead the industry in revenue growth, this proves all the more how unfair that bill is," Pohlman said. "It's frustrating to think that the state thinks raising our taxes but giving the big casinos huge tax breaks is the answer."

A spokesman for state Senate President Steven Sweeney, who introduced the bill, had no immediate comment.

The bill would provide tax credits to offset the increase Golden Nugget and other casinos could face, but the Golden Nugget says it would still come out behind the larger casinos.

The Taj Mahal posted the biggest decline at nearly 20 percent, to $14.7 million.

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC