In Atlantic City, New Jersey, the newest and largest casino — a $2.4 billion ultra-modern complex called Revel — is closing after operating for less than three years and never turning a profit. Two other casinos, the Showboat and the Trump Plaza, will be closing later this year, and a fourth casino closed at the beginning of 2014.
In Ohio, revenues from the state-licensed casinos are down at five of the six casinos that have been open for more than a year. Casino operators, always on the lookout for that extra shekel, are hoping to win approval for plans to make up for a bit of that lost revenue by putting slot machines in smoking areas so smokers can feed the one-armed bandits while puffing away.
In both places, the cause for the decline in revenue is the same: competition. Atlantic City casinos were hurt by the opening of a number of small casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania. In Ohio, new “racinos” — race tracks that are licensed to operate row after row of slot machines — are coming on line so that by the end of the year the state will have four casinos and seven racinos to compete for the gambling dollar. Ohio now has gambling outlets throughout the state and in four neighboring states, and casinos can be found in cities and on native American reservations up and down the east coast.
The falling casino revenues and closures are bad news for employees who lose their jobs — Revel had more than 3,000 employees who will need to find new employment — and for government planners who adopted rosy casino tax revenues in their budgets, but it’s not necessarily bad news for the rest of the country. The struggling fiscal performance of all of the new casinos clearly indicates that there is a finite population of gamblers in the United States, and that pie is not growing. Perhaps the data means that most Americans would rather get and keep a job, save their hard-earned wages rather than risking them at games of chance, and achieve financial independence the old-fashioned way? If so, such a show of prudence is encouraging. Now, if only governmental leaders who are all too happy to adopt budgets bloated with pie-in-the-sky casino revenue projections would begin to exercise the same kind of restraint . . . .