Last year, for the first time in the 29-year history of legalized gambling in Atlantic City, the casinos won less money than they did the year before, figures released yesterday show.
The 5.7 percent decline to $4.9 billion was hardly a surprise. For month after month in 2007, the gaming halls reported wins that were down from 2006 levels -- all attributed to new competition from slots parlors in Pennsylvania and New York, and new smoking restrictions on Atlantic City casino floors. (emphasis added)
Still, the first year-to-year decline provided a marker that the gambling mecca did not want. It also deprived the people of New Jersey of about $24 million in gambling tax revenue, which the state uses to benefit senior citizens and people with disabilities.
"It is a shock -- a slap on the side of the head for anyone who owns a casino in town," said Carlos Tolosa, president of the Eastern Division of Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which owns the Harrah's Marina, Showboat, Caesars and Bally's casinos in Atlantic City. Collectively, the four casinos made up 44 percent of last year's total revenue.
"This was a wake-up call for everybody that we have to continue to build nongaming attractions and convert this resort town into a destination," Tolosa said, "and that we have a long way to go."