Will More Atlantic City Casinos Close?

Lawmakers are working on a proposal to legalize gambling in New Jersey outside of Atlantic City. An analyst predicts more casinos will shut down.

Resorts - Trump Taj

Resorts and the Trump Taj Mahal were the only two Atlantic City casinos that posted operating losses for the first quarter of 2015. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Atlantic City’s casinos recently reported a bit of good news: Gross casino operating profits more than doubled in the first quarter. The eight remaining casinos made $81.3 million — compared with $38.8 million in 2014.

Obviously, these numbers are skewed: In the first quarter of 2014, casinos had deep losses from Revel dragging down these numbers. But now that Revel and other struggling casinos (and the still-profitable Showboat) have closed, the situation has leveled out. Winter is not the easiest time for a resort town to turn a profit, and all but Resorts and the Trump Taj made money.

But obviously the news can’t be all good for AC’s casino industry. Speaking at the East Coast Gambling Conference on Wednesday, a Wall Street analyst said more casino closures were likely.

Fortress Investment Group’s Adam Rosenberg declined to speculate on which casinos would close.

But two casinos did post operating losses in the first quarter, amid the better news: Resorts and the Trump Taj Mahal. Resorts, the first casino in Atlantic City, has been open since 1978. (Steve Lawrence made the first legal bet, losing $50.) The Trump Taj opened in 1990 at a cost of $1.2 million after legal wrangling between Donald Trump and Merv Griffin. Trump deemed it “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”

One of the reasons more casinos may close is simply due to increased competition. The Live! Hotel and Casino won a second license for Philadelphia last year. And now Chris Christie says he’s open to casinos in North Jersey, too.

“I think given the competition around us, it would be the right thing to do, as long as there’s a provision to have some of the revenue to help Atlantic City and help some of the workers down there who have lost their jobs because of the downsizing,” he said on his “Ask the Governor” radio show. In order to legalize casinos outside Atlantic City, it would have to be passed as a ballot question. Lawmakers have about a month to finalize the language if they want to get it on the ballot in 2015.

Obviously, some in South Jersey are worried about a potential Meadowlands casino. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew said he would not vote for a casino in North Jersey. “We should invest in Atlantic City, not divest, because that’s what would happen if we have casinos in North Jersey,” Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo said.

Still, the plans continue: The renderings for Hard Rock Casino Meadowlands will be unveiled next week.