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Atlantic City doomed by glut of casinos in region

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, July 20, 2014, 8:18 p.m.
 

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The rapid disintegration of Atlantic City's casino market might be an early indicator of what could happen in other parts of the country that have too many casinos and not enough gamblers.

In the 36th year of casino gambling in New Jersey, which not too long ago had a monopoly on the East Coast, the casino industry is crashing with a suddenness and a fury that has caught many people here by surprise. It started the year with 12 casinos; by mid-September, it could have eight.

The Atlantic Club shut down in January, taken down by two rivals, stripped for parts and closed in the name of reducing competition, eliminating 1,600 jobs.

In recent weeks, the owners of the Showboat and Trump Plaza announced plans to close, and Revel, which opened two years ago, said it, too, will close if a buyer can't be found in a bankruptcy court auction next month. That would put nearly 8,000 workers — about a quarter of the city's casino workforce — on the street.

“Most of us had expected one or two places to close this year and that would be it for a while, and it would give us a chance to catch our breath,” said state Sen. James Whelan, a former Atlantic City mayor. “This is happening very quickly, and it is absolutely devastating to our region.”

David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said casino markets across the country could be in a similar situation — and soon.

Connecticut's tribal casinos have been affected by New York casinos, and an even greater challenge from casinos going online soon in New York and Massachusetts awaits. Mississippi, where Caesars Entertainment recently shuttered a casino in Tunica, has struggled with competition from expanded gambling in the Midwest and Florida.

Even in Pennsylvania, which overtook Atlantic City as the nation's No. 2 casino market, casino revenue is stagnant as competition grows.

“For the past 36 years, Atlantic City was basically a place people drove to play slots,” Schwartz said. “Now, the last thing people in the Northeast need is to drive somewhere far away to play slots.”

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