New Jersey’s state senate approved an emergency relief bill this week to help alleviate the financial burden that Atlantic City casinos are facing in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
All nine of the city's casinos have been shut down since March, when coronavirus precautions forced every U.S. commercial casino to shut down.
The bill, S2400, will cut taxes on gaming revenue for one year starting from the date that the casinos reopen, according to a story from The Press of Atlantic City. The story said that could make a difference of as much as $93 million in the 12-month period after casinos reopen.
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The shutdown has been dire for the casino industry in New Jersey and for Atlantic City as a whole. Commercial casinos in America brought in a record $43.6 billion in revenue in 2019. And Atlantic City has the second-biggest commercial casino market in America, trailing only the Las Vegas Strip, according to the American Gaming Association.
The nine commercial casinos in Atlantic City combined to make $3.16 billion in net gaming revenue in 2019, according to figures from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Total gaming revenue for the state was nearly $3.5 billion in 2019 including the $300 million from sports wagering revenue.
But the city’s collective casino coffers have been empty since Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all the facilities shut down on March 16 amid coronavirus concerns. Murphy has said he is aiming for July 4 as a possible reopening date for the casinos but that is not official.
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In the meantime, online gaming has been on the rise in New Jersey. Evolution Gaming struck a deal with Golden Nugget in May to offer live dealer casino games in The Garden State. Also in May, New Jersey made more than $85 million in revenue from online casino and online poker totals combined.
Sports betting handle in New Jersey more than doubled from April to May, bringing in nearly $118 million in May as the state’s robust online market responded to the return of a few sports. Those figures should rebound when major leagues like the NBA and especially NFL return; New Jersey took in at least $400 million in sports betting handle every month in the six-month span from September 2019 to February 2020 before COVID-19 brought sports to a halt.
As for brick-and-mortar casinos, coronavirus-related closures are not the only hurdles facing the Atlantic City industry. Mayor Marty Small has also said he wants the long-closed Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino to be torn down, calling the vacant building “an eyesore” on the city’s famed Boardwalk.