Atlantic City is still the nation’s second-largest commercial casino market, but gaming expansion in nearby states will continue to test the city’s durability, based on findings in a recent survey on the state of the industry.

While 2017 was a record year for both gaming revenue ($40 billion) and tax revenue ($9.23 billion) industrywide, “the impact of intensifying competition remained a common theme for casino operators in 2017,” according to the American Gaming Association’s State of the States 2018 survey.

The AGA report showed Atlantic City was second only to the Las Vegas Strip among commercial casino markets in the United States, but the gap between second place and those behind it is starting to shrink.

In 2017, the Atlantic City gaming market reported $2.41 billion in revenue, trailing only the Strip’s $6.46 billion among U.S. markets. The third-largest market, Chicagoland, which includes portions of Illinois and Indiana, reported annual revenue of $1.97 billion.

Four of the next eight largest markets — Baltimore/Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia and the Poconos — are all areas Atlantic City used to draw gamblers from.

“The increasing competition from other markets in the Northeast is only going to get more intense,” said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “The biggest positive Atlantic City has in 2018 is that the city can boast two new properties (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino), which might drive visitation. The city’s other casinos have the opportunity to create new attractions that will offer customers more reasons to return to Atlantic City.”

The Baltimore/Washington, D.C., market, which includes Maryland and West Virginia, ranked fourth in 2017, posting annual revenue of $1.77 billion.

The fledgling market — the first casino in Maryland opened in 2010 — vaulted into the top 10 markets in 2015 at number six and has moved up one spot each of the past two years. The New York City market, which only includes Resorts World New York, Empire City Casino and Jake’s 58, was the fifth-largest market and boasted annual revenue in 2017 of $1.57 billion.

The Philadelphia market, which is served by only four properties, has remained in seventh place for the past three years but reported revenue of $1.25 billion last year. The 10th-place market, the Poconos, has held its place since 2015 and reported revenue of $990.5 million in 2017.

Two new properties in the Boston market — MGM Springfield, which opens Friday, and Encore Boston Harbor, scheduled to open in 2019 — may only exacerbate the shrinking pool from which Atlantic City and other Northeast casino markets have to draw.

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said while competition is “certainly a concern” for most markets today, Atlantic City has an edge over the others.

“It’s important to remember that while individual operations do create competition, Atlantic City has the advantage of being able to offer a destination experience and insulate itself to some extent by offering a diversified product for multiple market segments,” he said.

Wayne Schaffel, an industry consultant and former casino executive in Atlantic City, said that as gaming revenue continues to be spread out over an expanding market, “states will become ever more desperate to recoup the lost tax revenue and will seek to expand online gaming, sports betting, mobile betting and more.”

“This will further undermine brick-and-mortar casinos, leading to a spate of closures over the next decade,” Schaffel said. “This will be especially dire for New Jersey, which, in my opinion, has no real way to ever recoup the shortfall.”

Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Top 10 Commercial Casino Markets 2015-17

Source: American Gaming Association State of the States surveys

Market 2017 Revenue 2016 Revenue (Rank) 2015 Revenue (Rank)
Las Vegas Strip $6.46B $6.38B (1) $6.35B (1)
Atlantic City $2.41B $2.41B (2) $2.43B (2)
Chicagoland $1.97B $1.96B (3) $2B (3)
Baltimore/Washington D.C. $1.77B $1.39B (5) $1.31B (6)
New York City $1.57B $1.45B (4) $1.4B (4)
Detroit $1.4B $1.39B (6) $1.38B (5)
Philadelphia $1.25B $1.24B (7) $1.19B (7)
Gulf Coast $1.18B $1.18B (8) $1.14B (8)
St. Louis $1.03B $1.01B (9) $1B (9)
The Poconos $990.5M $981.4M (10) $965.6M (10)

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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