The revitalization of Atlantic City has been a significant topic of discussion this year in the Garden State.

You can’t read a report about the resurgence of Atlantic City casinos without coming across the word “optimistic.”

Is it right to be optimistic about AC’s future?

It’s true, Atlantic City casinos continue to post record revenue numbers, and tourists are once again flocking to the Boardwalk. All indicators point to Atlantic City rebounding from its dark and storied recent past.

The reality of the situation, however, is that the optimistic sentiments everyone speaks of have only been in place a short time.

When you think about it, Atlantic City is still sort of on its second (or, maybe third) honeymoon. A lot has happened in the last six months to help fuel the “optimistic” theorists.

First, after a nine-year legal battle, New Jersey finally won the right to accept sports wagers. With a strong start, NJ sports betting continues to grow while exceeding expectations.

Second, immediately following the launch of sports betting, two new casinos opened their doors. Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino put people back to work and brought curious visitors back to the city.

Third, NJ gambling sites show no signs of slowing down. Golden Nugget continues to lead the pack into record territory on a regular basis.

AC casinos jockeying for position

On the surface, it seems like the optimism is warranted. Atlantic City is not out of the woods, however.

Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, believes we should be “cautiously optimistic.”

In an email to PlayNJ.com, Pandit elaborated:

“In the short term, the introduction of two new casino operations (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino), the launch of legal sports betting, and the continued expansion of internet gaming, have all contributed to volatility and growth in the local and regional market. Over time, these fluctuations will ease and resolve into a new market share.”

Eventually, the honeymoon period will wear off as Atlantic City casinos jockey for position and secure their market share.

Tony Marino, a local analyst in Atlantic City, is also cautious (there is that word again) about the long-term outlook. He spoke to the Press of Atlantic City about the subject:

“… The hoped-for expansion of Atlantic City’s tourist market demand will continue to lag considerably behind the expansion in casino supply triggered by the two new casinos. … If Atlantic City’s past history has taught us to be realistic, we should anticipate that total year-round demand may not be sufficient to keep all nine casinos profitable by 2020 and beyond.”

Is AC returning to its former glory? Maybe

Atlantic City is like a cat.

It has nine lives, which force casinos and businesses to continually overhaul its messaging and offerings.

“Like the casino operators, Atlantic City continues to rebrand and diversify its offerings, succeeding in differentiating itself as a true destination resort and reclaiming the title ‘America’s Playground,’” said Pandit.

It is certainly easier to attract tourists in good times.

That means aggressive business strategies during this period of optimism are crucial. Focusing on branding Atlantic City as a resort destination may be the key to sustainable growth.

Pandit believes Atlantic City casinos are up to the task:

“Atlantic City casino operators will continue to innovate and diversify their gaming and non-gaming offerings to remain competitive with local, regional and national trends; especially as neighboring casino markets expand.”

Optimism is good for an economy. When people are optimistic they play more, and they spend more.

That is a necessary component for Atlantic City’s future growth.

Cautious is the part of the equation that ensures the lessons from the past will prevent the same mistakes going forward.

“Cautiously optimistic,” as Pandit put it, is a more realistic approach as Atlantic City settles into its new normal.

Kim Yuhl

About

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at kimyuhl.com.