Sandy sends NJ casinos to worst revenue drop ever

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Superstorm Sandy battered the Atlantic City casinos' revenue last month, causing the biggest monthly decline ever.

Yet the powerful storm left the casinos themselves virtually untouched — a fact that casino and tourism leaders are making a renewed effort to publicize.

Revenue at the 12 casinos was down 19.9 percent in October, due largely to the fact that the casinos were closed for four days. That narrowly edged out another storm-marred month, August 2011, when the approach of Hurricane Irene closed the casinos for three days and led to a 19.8 percent revenue plunge.

This year, the casinos closed for the storm on Oct. 28 and began reopening Nov. 2; it wasn't until Nov. 5 that all 12 casinos were back in operation. That means the November revenues will likely be bad, as well.

In October, the gambling halls took in $209.4 million. Slot machine revenue fell 21.8 percent, to $149.1 million, while table game revenue decreased by 14.6 percent, to $60.2 million.

Earlier Friday, representatives of Atlantic City's tourism and casino industries announced a renewed effort to publicize the fact that the resort came through the storm virtually unscathed, and urged people to return.

"This is essential for us — it's our lifeblood, the iconic Boardwalk," said Liza Cartmell, CEO of the Atlantic City Alliance, the new marketing arm of the casinos and the resort.

Tourism leaders went to great pains to dispute inaccurate media reports during the storm that Sandy had destroyed the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which was the first in the nation. In fact, it only wrecked a one-to-two-block stretch away from the casinos that had been damaged in previous storms, was already condemned, and was sealed off from pedestrians.

The boardwalk, upon which the nine oceanfront casinos front, was not damaged at all, said John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

"The historic Boardwalk is in very good repair," he said. "Everything was really ready to reopen the day after the storm."

Cartmell said that because Atlantic City emerged from the storm in such better shape than seaside resorts along the rest of the shore, it hopes to take the lead in restoring the state's crucial $38 billion tourism industry. It has started a blog called "Can-Do," a play on the resort's new tourism slogan "Do AC," in which readers are encouraged to share their stories of recovery from the storm.

Revel, the city's newest casino, turned in its worst month ever, taking in nearly $9.3 million. It won $13.4 million in April, its first month of operation, during a period its owners still considered a trial period.

"We made a decision to use October, typically a slower gaming month for Atlantic City, as a transition month to recalibrate our casino marketing efforts, including hiring a new senior vice president of marketing, so that we can elevate the experience for our gaming customers," Kevin DeSanctis, Revel's CEO, said in a prepared statement. "In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, our resort's gaming, hotel, spa and nightlife are operating on a regular schedule and nearly all of our restaurants are open."

Every one of the city's casino experienced a revenue decline in October, led by a 38 percent plunge at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, which took in $18.6 million. Bally's Atlantic City fell 33 percent to $19.8 million; Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which remains for sale, fell 32.5 percent to nearly $6.6 million, and the Showboat Casino Hotel fell 27.2 percent to $15.1 million.

Resorts Casino Hotel was down 25.3 percent to $9.5 million; the Tropicana Casino Resort was down 21.4 percent to $16.1 million, and the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was down nearly 21 percent to $42 million.

Harrah's Resort Atlantic City was down $18.3 percent to $26.6 million; Caesars Atlantic City was down 16.7 percent to $26.9 million, the Atlantic Club was down 7.1 percent to just under $10 million, and the Golden Nugget Atlantic City was down 4.3 percent to $8.6 million.

For the first 10 months of the year, casinos won $2.7 billion, down 6.2 percent from the same period in 2011.

Copyright Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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