Posted At : October 13, 2009 02:08 PM | Posted By : D McKee
Related Categories: Harrah's,Boyd Gaming,Neil Bluhm,Pennsylvania,Marketing,Colony Capital,Atlantic City,Tropicana Entertainment,Current,Sheldon Adelson,Maryland,Regulation,Economy,Carl Icahn,Tourism,New York
As you know, S&G puts more stock in year/year comparisons than sequential ones, but the most recent set from Atlantic City affords a slender reed of hope. With the help of tighter slots, A.C. held its September decline to 6%, the lowest of 2009 and the smallest drop in over a year. Even perpetual dog Resorts International had a good month, up 4% y/y.
Both in dollar volume ($63 million) and growth (6%), the leader was -- no surprise -- Borgata. In fact, the Boyd Gaming property made more than the four lowest-grossing properties (Resorts, Atlantic City Hilton, Trump Plaza, Trump Marina) combined. The two lesser Trump properties slipped below the Colony Capital ones, so one doesn't know whether to feel good for Colony or sorry for Trump Entertainment Resorts. The handover of Resorts Int'l continues to proceed slowly, as regulators enter uncharted waters with understandable caution.
Percentage-wise, Showboat, the Hilton and the Plaza had the worst of it, while gainers included Harrah's Atlantic City (3%) and even the Tropicana (1%). But the bloom is off the Trump Taj Mahal rose; it fell back to the middle of the pack, grossing $36 million.
One unexpected factor in the city's bump was a late-September, gay-themed promotion at the four Harrah's Entertainment properties. For all the lip service paid, year after year, to diversifying Atlantic City's appeal, Don Marrandino and his Harrah's colleagues backed up the talk with meaningful action.
Dead casino walking: Trump Marina
Back at Trump, its CEO, Mark Juliano declares "The real question is how long until we get back to the results we saw in past years, which is the question everyone in every business has." No, the real question is: On what planet is Mr. Juliano living? And: Do they have oxygen up there?
The math is inexorable. Excluding three months of sub-2% growth, Atlantic City's revenues have going one way -- down -- for the last seven quarters, often by double-digit margins. Casinos in Pennsylvania continue to ramp up, Delaware is talking very seriously about casino expansion, slot parlors in Maryland are in train and then there's prospect of additional competition from the greater New York City area.
Instead of asking "Where are the snows of yesteryear," S&G modestly suggests the Boardwalk's casino braintrust ought to be thinking about how to move forward into a future of diminished (i.e., more realistic) expectations.
Up the road, now that the novelty factor has worn off of Sands Bethlehem (above), the $724 million casino remains mired in fifth place. The solution? More and bigger promotions, it would appear. Judging by the lukewarm response to Sands and to Rivers Casino, the Pennsylvania market isn't big enough to support casinos built with Vegas-sized budgets.