Atlantic City casinos’ gross operating profit in the first quarter of 2021 was over $95 million, more than triple the amount they earned in the first quarter of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic’s shutdown wiped out the second half of March.
Figures compiled by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show eight of the nine casinos posted increases in their gross operating profit, with only Bally’s posting an operating loss. Gross operating profit includes earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and other charges, and is a widely-accepted measure of profitability in the casino business.
James Plousis, chairman of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, said 2021’s figures are not evenly comparable to the first quarter of 2020 due to the 2020 shutdown; he chose to compare 2021’s performance to the first quarter of 2019, when all the casinos were operating and the pandemic had not yet occurred. Under that comparison, the casinos’ first quarter earnings in 2021 are 11% higher than they were in the first quarter of 2019.
“The strength of internet gaming and the safe return of tourists to Atlantic City are a powerful combination,” he said. “(The) lifting of casino capacity restrictions bolsters confidence for a strong recovery...” Several reports indicated there is widespread joy over the news among casino employees.
The top-performing Borgata posted an operating profit of more than $29 million during the quarter, up more than 28% from the same period in 2020. The Tropicana earned $16.2 million, up nearly 128% from 2020, and Harrah’s earned $9.5 million, up 224%.
Hard Rock earned $8.5 million, compared to a $4.2 million loss in the first quarter of 2020; Caesars earned almost $8.2 million, compared to a loss of $593,000 in the first quarter of 2020. and the Ocean Casino Resort earned $7.94 million, compared to a $574,000 loss in 2020’s first quarter.
Golden Nugget earned $4.7 million, up over 406%; Resorts earned just over $1 million, compared to a $3.4 million loss in the first quarter of 2020, and Bally’s reported a loss of nearly $6.5 million, compared to a loss of over $8 million under previous ownership.
Among internet-only entities, Golden Nugget Online Gaming earned over $7.9 million, up nearly 24%; Caesars Interactive Entertainment NJ earned almost $4.5 million, up nearly 20%; and Resorts Digital Gaming earned almost $4.3 million, up more than 59%.
American Gaming Association, the national trade group, said the nation’s commercial casinos took in more than $11.1 billion in the first quarter of 2021. That matched the industry’s best quarter in history, the third quarter of 2019. The figures do not include tribal casinos, and only represent money taken in by casinos before paying expenses and debts.
Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said revenue and hotel occupancy figures for the first quarter of 2021 were up from the fourth quarter of 2020. She called that “further sign that the industry is recovering. As the last restrictions are lifted, there is every reason to expect to see even stronger recovery in the second and third quarter data.”
“Atlantic City 1st quarter casino earnings more than triple”, by Wayne Parry, apnews.com, May 24, 2021.
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