Atlantic City's Visitor Rate in 2017 lowest Since 1982April 6, 2018 11:10 am
The number of people visiting Atlantic City in 2017 dropped to its lowest level since 1982, with visitation rates down by 1.2% to 24.1 million compared to the previous year.
The latest report produced by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University highlights the declining fortunes of Atlantic City’s tourist industry, which between 1987 and 2010 could at least count on a steady 30 million plus people visiting the east coast resort each year.
Helping to explain much of the decline is the increased competition coming from nearby states, such as Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, which all now have thriving casino industries of their own. Nevertheless, New Jersey is hoping to wrestle back some of its market share this year after the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort open for business, and as the Levenson Institute report explains:
“The new arrivals to the Atlantic City tourism market can certainly be expected to generate considerable publicity and large crowds. The result of all this activity should be a significant surge in visit-trips to Atlantic City this summer.”
Fewer Visitors in Decades
One would have to look all the way back to 1982 to find a time when Atlantic City attracted fewer visitors than last year, with 22.9 million people having made the journey back then. From the 24.1 million people who visited in 2017, 92 percent of them made the trip by car, with the 44 mile long AC Expressway being used as the primary route in and out of the City. In addition to vehicle transport numbers shrinking, casino charter buses also had 103,000 less passengers during the first three quarters of 2017, with fourth quarter figures still yet to be made available.
Atlantic City’s visitation rates peaked at 35 million in 2005, and the following year its casino market posted a record $5.21 billion in revenues, after which it started to decline before returning to growth in 2016. During the contraction period, four of its casinos (Trump Plaza, Revel, Showboat Casino, Atlantic Club) closed in 2014, followed by a fifth 9Trump Taj Mahal) in 2016, and while less competition has helped the remaining casino businesses to grow, it appears that a smaller number of casinos have also meant less attractions to draw visitors to the City.
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort
There is a strong sense of belief that the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino will help reverse the city’s fortunes in 2018. Both casinos located at the north end of the Boardwalk are spending huge amounts of money rebranding and renovating their properties, and as Anthony Marino from the Levenson Institute explains:
“Both properties have super-sized casino floors and ample space to include celebrity chef restaurants, exciting entertainment venues, conference and business facilities, plus other amenities to attract non-gaming business.”
Atlantic City could certainly do with a greater sense of optimism, too, as after posting year-on-year revenue growth in 2016 and 2017, the last few months have been more worrying with gross gaming revenue (GGR) dropping by -0.5% in December,- 9.9% in January, and -6.5% in March. Nevertheless, Christopher Glaum, bureau chief of financial investigations for the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, has warned about reading too much into the figures, which he said have more to do with the difficult weather conditions experienced by the region recently than actual business sentiment. On behalf of the DGE, Glaum also noted that they were hopeful the market would stay firmly in positive territory in 2018.
Not everyone is convinced that having nine casinos will be beneficial for Atlantic City, though, with Fitch Ratings maintaining that such a situation was “not great for Atlantic City.”