More Bad News for Atlantic City
This is becoming one of my most talked-about topics on NJKegstand, but I do believe it is an important one. Gambling can become an addiction, I am well aware of this. There are people out there who see it as a vice and a sin and they have every right to that opinion. I am not blind to the harrowing effects gambling can have on those who succumb to it. Same goes for alcohol, yet it does not stop popular news outlets from sharing great cocktail recipes or advertising for brands of vodka.
Everything in moderation, even moderation (the only thing I took from Lost Horizon, thanks Hilton). That being said, gambling has a lot of positive results. For those people who can control their urges, gambling is just another fun dimension to add to a vacation or a getaway that might also include dining out, catching a show, or shopping. For the state that houses some form of gambling destination, increased tourism is a plus and for these tourists that join rewards programs, special room offers and other benefits are available.
Then there is the lottery. The chance at a life-changing amount of money, great Birthday card stuffers, and increased revenue for lottery retailers. As for the state that has a lottery operation, they get essential funding for community colleges, human services, military and veterans affairs, and other state operations and programs. In New Jersey, 34.75% of the lottery goes to education and institutions within the state.
Given all this information, you can understand the magnitude that I do assign to keeping Atlantic City and New Jersey gambling at the forefront of the nation. A position it has already lost to Pennsylvania and is slowly losing to our other neighbors.
The lottery will be fine (I hope), but last year marked the first time that Pennsylvania grabbed the coveted second-largest gambling market spot behind Las Vegas. A position long held by Atlantic City.
A position New Jersey held in 2011, albeit barely. The chart below shows New Jersey ahead of Pennsylvania in 2011, but it also reveals two states headed in two completely different directions as New Jersey gaming from 2010 to 2011 was down 7% while Pennsylvania saw growth of 21.3%. It only took one more year of opposite trajectory to put Pennsylvania firmly above New Jersey with PA taking in $3.16 billion and NJ falling again to just over $3 billion. That is all it took for the flip flop to occur.
Take a look at the chart again, but this time focus on the other states that surround New Jersey and another disquieting discovery is made. All other states surrounding New Jersey with the exception of Delaware (-3.3%) are trending up. New York grew from 2010 to 2011 by 15.6%, Rhode Island grew by 7.5% and the most jaw-dropping statistic is Maryland’s growth– a mere 464.2%. Small markets or not, with this growth and New Jersey’s continuing decline, New Jersey’s#3 spot might only survive another year or two.
Sad news for the once gambling jewel of the East Coast and rapid too. It was only six years ago that New Jersey saw its highest intake ever at $5.2 billion, but since then it has steadily diminished. Ironic that in 2006, the year of New Jersey’s peak, Pennsylvania’s first casino opened. The writing was on the wall the whole time.
Changes must be made because the added bonus of the beach during the summer months is not going to save Atlantic City. In my opinion, sports betting should be aggressively pursued and adding slot machines to the major racetracks needs to be a near certainty at this point. Between the devastation Sandy left at the Jersey Shore and the inability of Atlantic City to keep pace, New Jersey might be in for a slow tourism year. We need all the help we can get.