As compared with numbers from the end of 2018, the total number of people working in Atlantic City’s nine casino hotels declined slightly at the end of 2019.
Experts say the 2019 decrease in employment isn’t a cause for concern, though. It’s also not an indicator that the industry is moving in the wrong direction, but rather a more accurate reflection that AC’s casino market added two properties in June 2018 — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort.
But the lowered numbers are showing the market self-correcting after the previous addition of those two huge properties.
The Executive Director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, Rummy Pandit, said the industry is still figuring itself out, as the nine casinos attempt to identify the best way to operate in an expanded market.
“The casinos were “more efficient” in 2019 and were therefore “able to generate higher levels of revenue at a lower expense rate,” Pandit said.
Employment Eclipsed with Hard Rock & Ocean Casino Opening
Hard Rock and Ocean Resort brought in a lot of traffic and excitement to the beachfront gaming mecca. And these marks hadn’t been met in over a decade. Only one month after the Hard Rock and Ocean reopened the shuttered Boardwalk casino properties, the entire casino hotel industry reported employing more than 30,000 people.
That was the first time employment eclipsed the 30,000 mark for the first time in four years. The last time the city reached those employment numbers was in 2014, right before four properties closed.
The dual openings of Hard Rock and Ocean resulted in the creation of 7,741 jobs in June 2018. By the end of that year, those two properties employed 6,927 people. As of December, Hard Rock (3,630) and Ocean (2,949) accounted for 6,579 casino hotel jobs, or just shy of 25% of the industry’s total labor force.
The Market Self-Corrects
According to Pandit, “New properties can take anywhere from six months to a year to stabilize in its market segments, and will adjust staffing levels accordingly.” After a strong summer and initial enthusiasm once the two properties opened, Atlantic City saw a 4.5% reduction in casino positions in September 2018.
Ocean Resort actually reported the largest decrease in the number of jobs lost (228) from the year 2018 to 2019. Bally’s Atlantic City reported the largest decrease in jobs as a percentage of its total workforce, with a nearly 9% difference in 12 months.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is currently responsible for employing the most NJ residents out of all the Atlantic City casinos. The casino reported over 5,500 jobs just last month. Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City provided 3,095 jobs at the end of 2019, third-most among the resort’s casino hotels. Tropicana rounded out the top five in 2019, reporting 2,947 employees.
Will 2020 Numbers Increase?
Heading into 2020, Atlantic City seems to be in a generally more optimistic spot, as it’ll be buoyed by an expanded casino market with more jobs and more revenue. On the contrary, it’s uncertain whether all nine casinos will make it the finish line of 2020, and whether nearby states will bite into the city’s main strengths right now: online gambling and sports betting.
2019 marked the first full year that all nine Atlantic City casinos were in full operation. How the city chooses to navigate the changing tides of the industry will be the biggest determining factor of how 2020 will go for them.
David Schwartz, a gambling historian with the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said this of key factors that will merit AC’s success this year:
“I think we will see the city continue to adjust to the new gambling landscape.
Sports betting and online betting will continue to grow in importance. Anything that gives people a reason to visit Atlantic City in person when there are plenty of places to gamble closer to home — including home — will be key.”
Ocean’s CEO, Terry Glebocki, is confident this will be a booming year for his casino, which he refers to as the fastest growing casino in Atlantic City. Saying it is “better positioned today than ever before.”
2020 could also see new life for the former Atlantic Club casino, which has been dark since Jan. 2014. Colosseo Atlantic City Inc., a New York investment and construction firm, bought the property in October and announced plans to reopen it as a non-gambling hotel.
Lupo, Hard Rock’s president, said:
“The challenge will continue to be seeing casino revenue growth continue. Most of the growth has been online gambling and online sports wagering. Can we keep people coming to the market and increase visitation?”
Only time will tell.