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A.C. casinos post first upswing since 2008 | Philadelphia Inquirer

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A.C. casinos post first upswing since 2008 | Philadelphia Inquirer
Propelled by more favorable winter weather and an extra weekend day in December, Atlantic City's 11 casinos recorded a revenue increase last month, snapping a 39-month losing streak.

Total gaming revenue for December was $246.5 million, up 4.2 percent from a year ago. Tiny Resorts, which marked its one-year anniversary under new owners, and the market-leading Borgata led the surge, with revenue increases of 23.1 percent and 19.1 percent, respectively.

The resort's gaming operators, battered for so long, suddenly found a reason to smile as the revenue numbers were released Tuesday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

August 2008 was the last time the numbers tipped positive. In late 2006, Pennsylvania opened the first of its casinos - there are 10 of them now - and that, many say, contributed greatly to Atlantic City's woes.

"Everybody wants to see positive news after hitting your head 40 times against the wall," said Tony Rodio, president and CEO of the Tropicana, who took over the casino last year. "It's nice to see things begin to pick up. It's certainly a positive."

Slots revenue in December was up 8.3 percent, to $174.1 million, from December 2010. Table-games revenue decreased by 4.3 percent from a year ago, to $72.5 million.

"To have an 8.3 percent growth in slots, absent the weather, I take that as a very encouraging sign," Rodio said.

"The positive win results are an encouraging sign of economic recovery for Atlantic City casinos," said David Rebuck, acting director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement. "This is an exciting time for Atlantic City as we see more visitors enjoying the casinos and the wide array of attractions."

In a note to investors Tuesday, gaming analyst John Kempf, of RBC Capital Markets, said: "Overall, it is encouraging to see Atlantic City finally post positive numbers, but we caution this is against extremely weak prior-year numbers."

December 2010 was hurt by a snowstorm at the end of the month, Kempf noted, leading to the lowest gaming-revenue levels since 2001. In addition, he said, last month had one additional weekend day (a Sunday) and more favorable weather in the region.

Four of the 11 Atlantic City casinos reported declines in December. Trump Plaza had the highest, a 14.9 percent decrease, followed by ACH at 5.6 percent; Bally's, with 2.6 percent; and Golden Nugget, 1.4 percent.

But gaming operators said that there is much to look forward to with the opening of the highly anticipated $2.4 billion, 1,898-room Revel Casino on the Boardwalk May 15, and that the changes Gov. Christie put in place nearly a year ago are beginning to bear fruit.

The Republican governor's overhaul of the resort includes regulatory changes to make it more favorable to investors and the creation of a state-led casino and tourism district.

Rodio said he expected the marketing efforts to pick up this year since money that had previously gone to the state's racetracks for purse subsidies was now being used by the Atlantic City Alliance to market the new tourism district and the resort in general. As part of his overhaul, Christie called for the end of the subsidies.

"We will certainly not have to wait another 40 months to have another increase," Rodio said. "With the opening of Revel . . . you will see the market grow and an increase in new and existing visitation to the city."

"December's results clearly show that the future of Atlantic City is a bright one," said Robert Griffin, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, which serves as the collective voice of the industry. Griffin is also CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which owns the two Trump casinos in Atlantic City.

"This positive turnaround is a testament to the vast offerings of all the properties," Griffin said. "I believe that we will look back at December 2011 as the beginning of the rebirth of Atlantic City."

Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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