Sports betting boosted Atlantic City gambling revenues

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The Atlantic City casino industry kicked off 2020 with another year-over-year gambling revenue gain.

The gambling hub extended its streak of casino revenue gains to 20 months in January, according to figures released Wednesday by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement. Total gambling revenue at Atlantic City’s nine casinos was $270.5 million last month, a 22.6% or nearly $50 million rise from January 2019.

Atlantic City's Golden Nugget saw a 37% year-over-year casino revenue increase in January, according to a state report.

"2020 is off to a promising start for Atlantic City," Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said in a statement. "The city continues to see increased sports betting and tourism, two important economic drivers. I look forward to a year of continued progress in 2020."

The Atlantic City casino revenue winning streak began in June 2018, the same month that the city’s two newest gambling properties, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort, debuted. Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort achieved the biggest year-over-year January revenue growth at 41% and 39%, respectively.

Golden Nugget also had a strong month with a 37% casino revenue rise that included a 1907.9% surge in sports wagering revenues. January sports wagering revenue at all Atlantic City casinos was $23.5 million, a 139.9% jump from the $9.7 million recorded in the same month last year.

"Guests who came to wager on sports events took the opportunity to explore Atlantic City’s abundant gaming and non-gaming options," Casino Control Commission Chairman James Plousis said in a statement. "Casino executives I’ve spoken with were very pleased that customers stayed longer to enjoy the city’s diverse dining and entertainment offerings.”

The big January for Atlantic City casinos contributed to New Jersey collecting $28.5 million in total gambling taxes for the month. A portion of the tax revenue is directed toward the state’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which uses certain gambling tax funds for Atlantic City development projects. New Jersey’s casino investment alternative tax from the CRDA was directed three years ago toward Atlantic City debt service under a five-year state takeover plan that took effect Nov. 9, 2016.

Atlantic City, which was in danger of defaulting on its debt before state intervention took effect, has made strides toward fiscal stability in part through settling long-term liabilities and implementing a casino payments-in-lieu of taxes program. The city also cut its expenditures to $228 million in 2018, a 27% decrease from 2013, after an adjustment in staffing levels and increasing operating efficiencies, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Moody’s upgraded Atlantic City general obligation bonds two notches in January to a still junk-level Ba3 from Ba2 with a stable outlook, citing improved financial conditions under state oversight. S&P Global Ratings also boosted Atlantic City debt two notches in November to BB-minus from B.

“January saw promising increases in gaming revenue over last year and continues to build on the positive trends set forth in December,” Rummy Pandit, executive director at the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming Hospitality & Tourism, said in a statement “Gaming, hospitality and tourism position Atlantic City as a strong economic driver for the greater Atlantic County, region and the state, with sports betting and non-gaming activities making healthy contributions towards that end.”

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