Atlantic City's revenues continued to fall in December, according to the latest statistics from New Jersey, with the gambling centre's 11 land casinos showing an accelerated decline over the previous year. The casinos won $302 million from gamblers in December, down 18.7 percent, exceeding the 15.1 percent decline set in September.
Throughout 2008, Atlantic City's casinos won 7.6 percent less from gamblers than they had in 2007, and prior to that, casino revenue had increased every year since gambling was legalised in the area back in 1978.
Joseph Weinert, senior vice president of consultants Spectrum Gaming Group commented: "Over the last two years, about $600 million in gross gaming revenue has disappeared from Atlantic City." He added that 3 300 casino jobs had been the human cost of the two year decline.
Gambling commission officials attributed the adverse results to a number of factors, including the nation's serious economic woes, growing competition in neighbouring states and smoking bans.
Atlantic City's decline coincided with the opening of slots parlours in Pennsylvania and New York that have siphoned away gamblers. Slot machine revenue fell 9.6 percent to $3.13 billion, and table games brought in $1.41 billion, down 3 percent.
Only one casino — Harrah's Resort Atlantic City — showed an increase for the year; its revenue rose 4.9 percent.
The two biggest declines were posted by casinos owned by Colony Capital, the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort at 18.3 percent and Resorts Atlantic City at 16.3 percent.
The news from Indiana is not much brighter, thanks to the prohibitively high gasoline prices last summer, and the impact of the recession.
Statewide figures released last week by the Indiana Gaming Commission showed revenues at Indiana's 11 full-service casinos fell 8 percent to about $2.5 billion last year, compared with $2.7 billion in 2007, while admissions fell 6 percent. It was the first time that statewide revenues and attendance for the full-service casinos have fallen from the previous year, contradicting the conventional wisdom that casinos were recession proof.
Adding to revenues, which totalled $2.67 billion throughout 2008, was the introduction in June last year of slot machines at Indiana's two horseracing tracks. Slot machines at the two horse tracks, Hoosier Park near Anderson and Indiana Downs in Shelbyville brought in nearly $195 million through December.
Mike Smith, president of the Casino Association of Indiana, said: "Obviously the economy has taken a big toll on Indiana casinos. It's taken two more casinos to do the same amount of business that 11 casinos did."
The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported that Horseshoe Southern Indiana, formerly Caesars Indiana, saw its gross revenues decline 9 percent in 2008, while admissions sank by 12 percent. The Harrison County boat drew nearly 367 000 fewer visits from patrons in 2008. The newspaper reported that analysts and gambling executives have opined that the recession has hit all forms of legalised gambling, including horse racing and some state lotteries.