Casino saturation hits Atlantic City

Showboat hotel

A boarded up home is pictured near the Showboat hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 25 May 2007.

The Showboat casino in Atlantic City is closing. It’s the second casino to close there this year. It turns out, a recent boom in Northeast casinos means the house doesn’t always win.

Since 2001, gaming revenue in the Northeast has increased 71 percent, the most of any region says David Schwartz, who directs the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

But regional growth isn’t good for old gambling hubs like New Jersey.

“You’ve had casinos open up in Pennsylvania in particular, which is where a lot of the customers for Atlantic City were coming from,” Schwartz says. “And now they have the same games they can play, it’s a shorter drive, it’s less gas money. So many of them are just playing there.”

Schwartz says gaming revenue in New Jersey has fallen 42 percent since 2007.

It’s not just the casinos that effects. Dave Fitzgerald, who directs the Ocean County, N.J., transportation department, says taxes on casino revenue help fund a program that gives people rides to dialysis appointments. But the decline in casino revenue means the program can’t take new clients.

“Back in ’08 we were transporting approximately 280 dialysis clients,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re now down to less than 30 dialysis clients. So it has severely impacted the level of services that we’ve been able to provide.”

The problem isn’t going away anytime soon. A third Jersey casino has filed for bankruptcy and is looking for a buyer.

About the author

Kate Davidson is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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