Casino profits in A.C. down 80% in 2020 — but, somehow, lucky 7 still made money

Atlantic City's boardwalk. ­

Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, tried to find a positive Friday afternoon after the year-end report by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement confirmed the expected: Gaming revenue in Atlantic City surpassed historic lows.

Gross operating profit, the standard indicator of industry health, finished the year at $117.5 million, or 80% behind 2019 (when it was $594 million).

The number of occupied room nights at casino hotels (2.3 million) was down 46.7% for 2020 and the occupancy rate (61.7%) was 17.2 percentage points behind 2019 (78.9%).

This, of course, was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a historic 107-day shutdown during the summer and very limited capacity since casinos were allowed to reopen.

Despite this, seven of the nine casinos made a profit — albeit a very small one.

The industry’s ability to adapt was enough to spark some optimism from Bokunewicz.

“The data tells a story of perseverance and adaptation in the face of significant obstacles,” she said. “There is every reason to hope that, as these obstacles are removed or overcome, the industry will again flourish, fueled by nationwide pent-up demand for travel and entertainment.”

It’s hard to imagine the industry facing a tougher year.

The numbers speak for themselves:

Here are the gross operating profits for the seven properties that turned a profit in 2020:

  • Ocean Casino Resort: $21.8 million (up 224%)
  • Tropicana Atlantic City: $18.8 million (down 78%)
  • Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City: $10.9 million (down 72%)
  • Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino: $10.5 million (down 84%)
  • Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City: $8.5 million (down 90%)
  • Golden Nugget Atlantic City: $7.3 million (down 74%)
  • Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa: $650,000 (down 99.7%)

Resorts Casino Hotel lost $10.6 million; Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino lost $10.1 million.

The casinos had a combined 61.7% occupancy rate, based on the number of rooms available in 2020. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Ocean (1,399 available rooms): 84% occupancy
  • Caesars (1,141 available rooms): 77.6% occupancy
  • Hard Rock (1,971 available rooms): 66.7% occupancy
  • Harrah’s (2,590 available rooms): 60.5% occupancy
  • Resorts (942 available rooms): 56.4% occupancy
  • Tropicana (2,364 available rooms): 54.9% occupancy
  • Borgata (2,767 available rooms): 50.9% occupancy
  • Golden Nugget (717 available rooms): 43.2% occupancy
  • Bally’s: N/A

James Plousis, chair of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, tried to remain optimistic, as well.

“Atlantic City and its casinos endured their most challenging year in history,” he told the Associated Press. “Yet, through responsible management, the casinos proved that in-person gaming could happen safely.

“As tourists return to the Shore, they can have every confidence Atlantic City is safe for the summer.”