Atlantic City officials focus on non-gaming development for future growth
Responding to the closings of the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, Revel and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, along with Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director John Palmieri and Atlantic City Alliance President Liza Cartmell released a document that reminded residents and visitors alike that significant progress is being made in the destination’s ongoing transition to a burgeoning, multi-faceted tourism mecca that is not focused solely on gaming.
Mayor Guardian acknowledged that the coming weeks will be difficult for the employees and for the resort destination as the closings will mean job losses at the three properties, but that he and others are working hard to provide solutions for those who will be displaced.
“We know that we still have some difficult waters to navigate, such as job replacement and retraining for our residents and the initial decrease in parking and luxury tax revenues,” said Guardian in a prepared statement. “With all the changes, I’m here today to say that we’re still hopeful about Atlantic City’s future and hold firm to the fact that, as a city in transition, we are in a good position. The shift in our casino supply is indicative of a nationwide trend; virtually every other market with casino gaming has been impacted by competitive pressures.”
For the newly unemployed, Guardian announced an inter-governmental program that includes gap assessment, employment training and job training in an effort to find alternative job placement for affected city residents.
From a longer-term perspective, Atlantic City authorities continue to promote non-casino economic development opportunities.
“We have made great strides through the public-private partnership between the CRDA, ACA and MEET AC with the state of New Jersey, Atlantic County and the city,” Palmieri said. “We are on track to drive $1 billion into the Tourism District within these first five years, which is all part of our plan that focuses on four key initiatives: attractioning visitation, building the visitor experience, targeting meeting and conventions and investing in neighborhoods and job training.”
According to press materials, to date, some $778 million worth of economic development projects are already completed, and there is an additional $475 million of development in process or already under construction, including Bass Pro Shop, which will provide 86,000 square feet of destination retail and bring with it almost 300 full- and part-time jobs, and Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, which will add more than 1,300 jobs.
There are also a significant number of pre-development concepts in the works, including the renovation of Tropicana and a new public market that will serve as an anchor attraction connecting Atlantic Avenue to the Boardwalk. And in an effort to capture more of the critical mid-week meetings and conventions business is the creation of Meet AC, a nonprofit expected to add a potential 251,000 group room nights in the next 3-5 years.
“We are making progress. Non-gaming spending has grown even as gaming declined,” Cartmell said. “Gaming now accounts for less than one-third of visitor spending. More than two-thirds of spending—67.8 percent, to be precise—is non-gaming.”
Other figures of note that the officials cited include:
- Cash sales at non-gaming outlets now account for 28.5 percent of visitor spending at casino properties, up from 22.3 percent two years ago.
- Luxury tax receipts—particularly in such non-gaming activities as nightlife activities and shows—show strong gains across all seasons.
- Retail and F&B establishments have expanded payrolls in recent years. For example, bars have increased wages and salaries by 37.8 percent since 2010.
- Between 2012-2013, other markets have declined more quickly than Atlantic City. Delaware, Indiana, Connecticut and now even Pennsylvania and Missouri are facing declining gaming revenues.
“We know that we are a tourism destination that has a huge amount of scale and enormous potential,” Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel said. “It’s important to remember that there are still dozens of nightclubs, more than 100 restaurants, 15,000 hotel rooms, and a full roster of year-round headline entertainment for visitors to enjoy. We also boast one of the most successful outlet shopping centers on the East Coast.”