It marked only the fourth time in the states 34 years of legal casino gambling that the casinos were been forced to close. Last year, Hurricane Irene closed Atlantic City casinos for three days during a prime summer weekend, costing an estimated $45 million in lost business. Casinos were also shuttered in 1985 for Hurricane Gloria, and in 2006, due to a state government shutdown.
Although Sandy made landfall with hurricane-force winds just a few miles away from Atlantic City on Monday evening, the casinos suffered little physical damage. Parts of the city were less fortunate, however. Dunes running along the Boardwalk were flattened, and flooding was widespread. An old section of the Boardwalk away from the casino district collapsed into the ocean, with pieces winding up on a city road.
Unlike past closures, this time business at the casinos did not immediately rebound. About half of Atlantic Citys gamblers come from New York or New Jersey, where many areas saw greater damage from Sandy. Adding to the problems were gasoline shortages and areas still experiencing power outages or closed roads.
Moodys Investors Service predicts the storm will take its greatest financial toll on Atlantic City casinos and electric power companies in New York and New Jersey. A Moodys report forecasts Atlantic City casinos earnings over the next two quarters will fall at least 25%, and perhaps by as much as 50%. Tropicana CEO Tony Rodio, who is also president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, downplays that estimate, but says city casinos averaged combined losses of $5 million for each day of this years closing.
Even before the storm hit, Atlantic City gambling revenues for the first nine months of this year were down 4.8% from the same period last year. Gambling revenues about $3.3 billion last year -- have been declining over the last six years, falling almost $2 billion, due to the weak economy and new competition from gambling in neighboring states.
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