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Casinos in East feeling squeeze

Table games add to competition

Once the only place in the nation outside Nevada with legalized gambling, Atlantic City is now beset by competition on all sides, with as many as three of its 11 casinos in jeopardy of closing. Once the only place in the nation outside Nevada with legalized gambling, Atlantic City is now beset by competition on all sides, with as many as three of its 11 casinos in jeopardy of closing. (Mel Evans/ Associated Press/ File 2008)
By Wayne Parry
Associated Press / May 26, 2010

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — As new casinos pop up, even with overall gambling revenue stagnating, casino companies are fighting harder for smaller shares of the market.

Executives at the East Coast Gaming Congress, a national casino conference, said yesterday that with many states now adding table games to the mix, it is going to be even tougher to succeed in the cutthroat East Coast market.

“We have to fight this explosion of gambling all around us,’’ said Don Marrandino, Eastern regional president of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which has four casinos in Atlantic City. “We have to continually reinvent ourselves as a destination.’’

Operators of casinos in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia told the gathering they have to fight for one another’s customers.

“I don’t think it’s saturated yet, but it’s clearly crowded, clearly more challenging,’’ said John Finamore, of Penn National Gaming.

Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president of the American Gaming Association, said 12 existing slots-only casinos on the East Coast will add table games within six months. The group does not include Indian casinos.

“We think the impact is going to be significant,’’ he said.

In Atlantic City, as many as three of the 11 casinos could close if things do not improve soon. Once the only place in the nation outside Nevada with legalized gambling, Atlantic City is now beset by competition on all sides.

Pennsylvania, which legalized slots parlors in 2006, now has nine, with table games coming soon. Delaware started testing table games Monday at its racetrack casinos. A new slots parlor is planned in New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack, and there has been talk of expanding slots to Belmont Racetrack. Maryland will open its first casino this fall in Cecil County, and a fourth West Virginia slots parlor will add table games soon.

All of this pits one casino company against another in the nation’s $60 billion gambling industry, which is roughly half commercial and half Indian casinos.

Each company hopes its new gambling halls will create new customers who previously have not gambled.

But executives acknowledge the reality is many are trying to grab customers away from other casinos.

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