When Will Buffets Return To Atlantic City Casinos?

Buffets at Atlantic City casinos were an understandable causality of COVID-19 and operators appear reluctant to bring them back.

Much like smoking, buffets were an understandable causality of the global pandemic for Atlantic City casinos.

However, unlike indoor smoking, Atlantic City casinos do not appear eager to bring back buffets.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy lifted the COVID-19 prohibition on buffets last month. Still, no AC gambling parlors have reopened the full all-you-can-eat dining option.

Uncertainty about consumer behaviors and high costs means most casino operators are going to be very strategic in bringing them back. If they do at all.

And it’s not just Atlantic City casino buffets on the carving block. There were nearly 60 buffets in Las Vegas casinos before the pandemic. As of Friday, just five are open.

Would you eat at a buffet right now?

It is not hard to understand why Atlantic City casinos are hesitant.

From a pure health perspective, buffets are more of a liability than traditional dining options. The proximity of guests waiting in lines, the handling of serving utensils by numerous patrons, and the sheer volume of customers are all concerning factors.

“I think it’s going to be a long time before customers are willing to eat at buffets, where they’re grabbing food from pans that other people have been grabbing food from,” Caesars Entertainment’s CEO Thomas Reeg said in 2020.

Buffets are ‘costly’ and ‘inefficient,’ casino exec says

But the biggest reason why casino operators may be reluctant to bring back buffets is the most obvious one: cost. The high cost of labor and the financial loss on wasted products means they are not moneymakers.

During the height of the pandemic last year multiple casino operators said, rather bluntly, that buffets would not be part of their long-term strategies.

“From our standpoint, we’ve been vocal in the past that buffets are an inefficient way to market to customers,” Reeg said last year. “They’re very costly; you lose a lot of money there.”

Caesars operates three casinos in Atlantic City: Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, and Tropicana.

Earlier this year, Reeg suggested casino buffets cost roughly $3 million per month for a single property. As the largest U.S. casino operator, Reeg reiterated the company’s position: “We’re going to be smarter about how we’re in the food and beverage business.”

Not entirely a lost cause in Atlantic City

A handful of Atlantic City casinos have found creative ways to either offer an experience that resembles a buffet or utilized the empty spaces to accommodate other needs.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City reopened Fresh Harvest early on. However, Hard Rock adapted to COVID restrictions in NJ and served buffet-style food to seated guests. Tropicana is doing something similar.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opted to reuse its buffet space to provide a sit-down dining experience for its Amphora Lounge guests. Just this weekend, Borgata announced that Amphora’s usual location will reopen Tuesday.

As far as the Borgata Buffet goes, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch service resumes starting Friday.


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Hard Rock, Ocean Rising To Top Of Atlantic City Casino Market As Others Tread Water

Hard Rock and Ocean are gobbling up Atlantic City casino market share, a multi-year trend that accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic upended the Atlantic City casino industry, yet Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Casino Resort are thriving amidst the chaos.

Atlantic City’s two newest casinos (now approaching their respective third anniversaries) are staking out positions atop the market, trailing only the untouchable Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

And while competition is good, the success of Hard Rock and Ocean appears to be coming at the expense of the other seven Atlantic City casinos. As the two properties make their market ascension, brick-and-mortar gambling revenues across the city are not keeping pace.

Is there enough Atlantic City casino revenue for nine?

When Hard Rock and Ocean opened in June 2018, some industry experts and analysts wondered if Atlantic City could handle additional casinos.

Would the two Boardwalk properties help invigorate a recovering gambling market that had recently been cut in half by competition? Or would they simply draw customers away from existing casinos and exacerbate the market’s woes?

Well, even before COVID-19 shut down the entire city last March, the answer started to take shape. And, based on gambling revenue in the months following last year’s industry shutdown, the conclusion is now pretty clear.

Hard Rock and Ocean have steadily increased their market share of casino win (table game and slot machine revenue) since 2018 while the rest of Atlantic City casinos have all seen declines.

Atlantic City casino market similar to Boardwalk pizza

Think of the Atlantic City market like a pizza pie and each slice represents an Atlantic City casino. However, unlike a traditional Jersey Shore pie, the slices of the AC casino market are not equal; some eat better than others at this table.

In a healthy market, the total size of the pie should increase proportionately when new casino operators join the table.

Hard Rock and Ocean are both large casino hotels. And, considering the slow but steady upward trajectory of the industry prior to their openings, annual market growth between 8% and 12.5% is not unrealistic.

Again, not everyone will get equal slices and everyone already at the table sacrifices a sliver or two. But, the whole pie gets bigger to ensure everyone eats well enough to stay healthy.

Unfortunately, that has not really been the case in Atlantic City.

Before Hard Rock and Ocean, Atlantic City was…

Casino win in Atlantic City had been growing by an average of 3.2% annually between 2013 and 2017. That figure excludes the five properties that closed in that span.

In 2017, casino win reported by AC’s seven properties was $2.4 billion.
Take a look at this pie graph for a breakdown:

With Hard Rock and Ocean, AC became…

In 2018, casino win increased 4% to $2.51 billion, thanks to the dual openings of Hard Rock and Ocean halfway through the year.

NJ sports betting was also legalized in 2018, adding another reason for people to gamble in AC.

The following year, casino win reported by the nine properties was $2.69 billion, a year-over-year increase of 7%.

Hard Rock increased its market share from 6.4% to 12.1%, while Ocean went from 3.6% to 8%.

Here’s a pie graph of 2019 casino win:

Forget all that because COVID changed everything

But 2020 was a whole different story.

NJ Gov. Phil Murphy ordered AC casinos to close on March 16. The governor permitted the gambling parlors to reopen just before the Fourth of July. Borgata elected to stay closed until July 26.

Unsurprisingly, casino win dipped to $1.5 billion last year. But, Hard Rock and Ocean significantly increased their market share.

By year’s end, Hard Rock controlled just under 15% of the Atlantic City market. Ocean increased its piece of the gambling pie to 12%. Meanwhile, the other casinos gave up a percentage of market share.

Borgata, the market’s highest-performing casino, relinquished 4.1% from 2019 to 2020.

Below is the 2020 pie graph:

Atlantic City casino pie slices getting smaller for most

Since the AC casinos reopened last summer, the trend of Hard Rock and Ocean feasting on the slices of existing market share has continued.

Beginning in August 2020 (the first full month all nine casinos were reopened at reduced capacities) through April 2021, Hard Rock increased its market share to 16.8% and Ocean went up to 12.6%.

Borgata regained a small percentage, creeping back up to 23.1%.
Here is a breakdown of the casino win as a percentage of the AC market since August:

Reservations are strongly encouraged for a seat

Table game and slot machine revenue is the main course for Atlantic City casinos. Sure, online gambling and sports betting are beneficial, however, neither produces revenue that belongs entirely to AC casino operators.

AC casinos need people in their buildings and gambling on their casino floors.

Several of the casinos have announced capital improvement plans that include hotel room renovations, new dining outlets, as well as additional slots and table games.

Hard Rock has said it will spend a minimum of $20 million. Ocean, which recently added two new high-limit areas known as The Cove and The Loft, is reinvesting $15 million.

Remember, both of these properties received extensive makeovers prior to reopening in 2018.

At the same time, others like Caesars Entertainment, for example, are not sitting idle. The parent company of CaesarsHarrah’s Resort, and Tropicana unveiled details to its $400 million maser plan.

And these new additions are either open or getting ready to debut. However, will these upgrades be enough to earn a bigger slice of the pie?

Given all the industry endured in 2020 and at the start of 2021, the Atlantic City casino market is as healthy as can be expected. But, if the current trends continue well into a post-pandemic world, there may be fewer seats available at the Atlantic City table.

The big boys will eat. Who will go hungry?

AP Photo/Wayne Parry

Time For A Standing Ovation: Ocean Casino Resort Announces Return Of Live Entertainment

Ocean Casino Resort is bringing back live entertainment at Ovation Hall again, starting with Loverboy and Brian McKnight July 4th weekend.

With New Jersey is easing up on its COVID-19 restrictions, it was only going to be a matter of time before Atlantic City casinos would start making additional announcements.

Sure enough, Ocean Casino Resort sent out a press release earlier today announcing some pretty big news: Live entertainment is returning to Ovation Hall.

As far as who will be performing, here are some of the names:

  • Brian McKnight, July 3
  • Summer of Love, various dates starting July 9
  • Morris Day & The Time, Aug. 14
  • Jeff Dunham, Aug. 21
  • Melissa Etheridge, Sep. 4
  • Alice Cooper, Sept. 17

“We are elated to bring back such an acclaimed group of headlining performers to Ovation Hall for our customers to enjoy,” said Terry Glebocki, Chief Executive Officer for Ocean Casino Resort. “Entertainment is one of Ocean’s core foundations, and as restrictions ease and we are able to open up more of our property, the return of live music and comedy serves to bolster our premier resort experience.”

Live concerts big change for Ocean

Ovation Hall has a seating capacity of over 5,000 people. Unfortunately, as a result of the global pandemic, the venue has been rather quiet and empty.

Remember, all nine AC casinos were closed for 100-plus days in 2020. And when they did reopen prior to the Fourth of July weekend, entertainment venues remained closed.

And up until now, nothing much changed. Sure there have been performers at restaurants and lounges, but it’s not the same.

Ovation Hall will continue hosting the Pro Fighters League regular season. Ocean Casino Resort is serving as the bubble (like Walt Disney World did for the NBA)

The next event will take place on June 10. However, fans have not been permitted to attend the fights.

Following CDC Guidelines

Like has been the case with the casino floor and restaurants, Ocean will continue following guidelines set by local health officials, the CDC, and state authorities.

This includes:

  • Mask requirements
  • Thermal screening
  • Hand sanitizing stations
  • Physical distancing

The Ocean team is encouraging advanced ticket reservations to “help comply with capacity restrictions and to maximize contactless ticket scanning.”

Other Atlantic City entertainment news

While Ocean’s announcement is considered pretty big news, they are not the first AC property to welcome back live entertainment. Hard Rock Atlantic City hosted a holiday show inside of the Sound Waves venue.

The property is now back in the comedy show business. Comedian Andrew Santino is next up with two shows on May 30.

However, bigger names are coming. Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys is performing on Aug. 6. Tickets go on sale Friday.

Borgata has no plans of spending another summer waiting as tickets are available for:

  • Jim Breuer, July 16
  • Mandy Moore, July 18
  • Dave Attell & Jeff Ross, July 31
  • John Legend, Aug. 21

Call this the start of what is shaping up to be a very busy summer in Atlantic City.

AP Photo/Wayne Parry 







BetMGM’s Casino Super Series Features $1.5 Million In Online Prizes

The Casino Super Series features BetMGM, Borgata and PartyCasino apps in a tournament that’s billed as the biggest online networked prize pool ever.

Players on three NJ online casinos now have something new to try to win: the Casino Super Series.

BetMGM’s Casino Super Series takes place now through Sept. 27 and will feature different games over the seven-week tournament, including slot, table and live dealer table games.

More than $1.5 million in prizes will be given out during the Casino Super Series. In a press release, BetMGM calls it New Jersey’s biggest online networked prize pool ever.

The three sites are BetMGM Casino, Borgata online casino and PartyCasino NJ.

“We’re excited to bring these three well-known gaming brands together to offer the biggest online gaming tournament New Jersey has ever seen,” said Matthew Sunderland, vice president of gaming for BetMGM.

“There really is something for every type of casino player in the Casino Super Series.”

How to play BetMGM’s Casino Super Series

The seven-week tournament will feature multiple leaderboards. A $500,000 overall leaderboard will keep tabs on the entire series along with awarding the $250,000 championship prize.

Players who opt into the tournament move up the leaderboard by playing the featured games of the week. Contestants earn a leaderboard point for every dollar wagered.

At the end of the week, the top players will earn a share of the $250,000 bonus cash and 50,000 free spins on the Starburst slot game.

All of the Casino Super Series prizes will be given out in unrestricted bonus cash. That means it comes with no wagering requirement.

There will also be $125,000 leaderboards each week of the tournament, which will award the top player of the week $50,000.

Casino Super Series players will have access to 250,000 free spins and a weekly “Slot in the Spotlight” highlighting featured games from the top online casino game makers in the country.

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Week 1 games feature jackpot slots

Week one of the series will feature the following online slot games:

  • Loot ‘En Khamun
  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • MGM Grand Millions
  • Luck O’ The Jackpot
  • Book of Myths
  • Melon Madness Deluxe

The potential is there for players to win big on one of these games this week.

A New Jersey resident recently won $3.2 million on a single $2 spin on the Luck O’ The Jackpot progressive slot game. It was an NJ online casino record.

Be sure to win a Lucky Spot

Each week will also feature 20 Lucky Spot winners. And yes, if you’re lucky, there’s bonus cash here, too — $1,000 bonus cash, to be exact.

The Lucky Spots prizes will be awarded to players who end the week in the following spots on the Week One leaderboard: 7, 17, 27, 37, 47, 57, 67, 77, 87, 97, 107, 177, 277, 377, 477, 577, 677, 777, 877, and 977.

Below is a payout breakdown for Week 1 of the Casino Super Series:

RankBonus Cash

Each week has a new payout breakdown with new games to play. To opt in and join the tournament, log in to BetMGM Casino or create an account at any of the three sites.

Let the games begin.

What’s In A Name? Borgata Rebrands Moneyline Bar To BetMGM Sportsbook

Borgata Casino in Atlantic City changed the name of its Moneyline Bar & Book to BetMGM Sportsbook, a tie-in with MGM’s national sports betting brand.

Borgata is doing a little name change this week. But we are not talking about the casino itself.

As of this week, BetMGM Sportsbook & Bar is the new name of the property’s retail sports betting operation. Moneyline Bar & Book is no more.

It debuted last summer.

During a Sunday visit, Borgata officials told NJ Gambling Sites the signage outside the space was being changed Monday. And the website is already updated with the new name.

Nothing else about the space is changing, at least from a design standpoint. But due to state mandates, the BetMGM-branded space is not serving food and drinks. Plus, there is that 25% capacity thing.

Changing Moneyline to BetMGM makes sense

The BetMGM brand is in the process of establishing a national customer base.

BetMGM sportsbook is one of 17 NJ sports betting apps currently available in the Garden State market.

But the platform is live in IndianaColoradoWest Virginia and Nevada, too.

Borgata is not the first MGM-owned property to do the name swap. Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip also dropped the Moneyline name in favor of BetMGM.

And by taking a national approach with the branding, BetMGM hopes to expand its customer base across multiple jurisdictions.

Tom Gable, director of race and sportsbook operations at Borgata, said he was helping out with a project in New Mexico. He noted the app is and will be available via properties outside of the MGM umbrella.

“You’ll see it at other properties as well throughout the country and in other states,” said Gable. “They’re live in Colorado now as well as on mobile. So it’s really just getting into other jurisdictions to be able to compete nationally against those other national brands.

“It’s really how BetMGM is being positioned. … It’s going to be that national brand that’s going to compete against the DraftKings and FanDuels of the world.”

Borgata + NJ sports betting

Talking more specifically about NJ sports betting, BetMGM is one of two brands operating under the Borgata license.

Borgata Sports is the other.

While BetMGM is establishing a national following, Borgata Sports is the more popular offering with Garden State customers.

Gable explains that the connection with the property has a lot to do with it.

“Borgata’s is the really strong brand, obviously, in New Jersey and really the tri-state area here,” said Gable.

“People just associate, obviously, more with Borgata in this area than they do necessarily BetMGM. That’s not to say BetMGM is not doing any business in New Jersey. They certainly are. But that Borgata Casino brand, that Borgata Sports brand, it’s really, really strong in this area. … Let’s face it, that’s what resonates with the customer.”

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement does not provide a monthly breakdown of how each app is performing. Looking at Borgata’s sports betting revenue as a whole, there’s a story. Business is improving for the license holder.

Borgata has earned more than $6 million in year-to-date NJ sports betting revenue. In 2019, the number came in a tad over $1 million over the same period.

Keep in mind the number would likely be much higher had the global pandemic not shut down the sports world.

The 2020 NCAA Tournament being canceled wiped out March Madness betting. Plus, the 2020 MLB season finally got underway on Thursday.

And these are just two examples of the impact the return of sports will have on Borgata and BetMGM’s bottom line.

Could NJ sports betting see a record August?

NBA betting season resumes on Thursday with two games. Plus, the NHL restart hits the ice on Aug. 1.

August is typically a month reserved for MLB while NFL teams are in preseason mode. This time around, all four major pro sports will be on the menu along with the PGA TourNASCAR and UFC.

So exactly how big a month could it be? Gable expects high numbers.

“Now with the major sports coming back, [it’s] probably going to be a record August, I would assume, for most books out there. It’s going to be great,” Gable said.

And speaking more specifically about baseball, the Philadelphia PhilliesNew York Yankees and New York Mets are all attracting significant betting interest.

“You’re always going to have liability in this market on the Yankees and Mets and the Phillies. It’s normal,” said Gable.

“I’m really interested to see day to day, now that we’re open to the general public, how their teams fare. I mean, with the condensed schedule this year, you have two really strong divisions. The AL East and the NL East are going to be playing the majority of their games in the division and against each other. So some of those stronger teams could get hurt, just the way the schedule’s set up.”

With so many sports returning and NFL betting just a month away, it was probably the perfect time to change the sportsbook’s name.

When next you visit Borgata, look for BetMGM Sportsbook & Bar to place your bets.

At Long Last, Borgata Atlantic City Set To Reopen On July 26

Borgata’s plans were delayed by a change in dining rules, but by the end of the month, all nine Atlantic City casinos will again be open for business.

The weekend before July Fourth was a big one in Atlantic City. That’s when the casinos started to reopen — but not all of them. Borgata Atlantic City remained closed.

But by the end of the month, all nine casinos will have their doors open. Borgata AC has slated its reopening for July 26.

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Borgata reopening originally delayed

The decision to delay Borgata’s reopening stemmed from Gov. Phil Murphy’s walk-back from restarting indoor dining just before the holiday.

The change in dining availability forced the MGM-owned Borgata to break away from the other Atlantic City casinos and wait to open when it could offer guests a more complete experience.

“We feel it best that we remain closed until such time that the governor lets us know it is safe to offer food and beverage,” said MGM Resorts International in a June 29 statement.

Now, three weeks later, the Borgata plans to reopen to the public after a soft invite-only reopening.

“Following the governor’s directive to postpone indoor dining, we took a step back to reassess our reopening date to ensure we could give our guests the world-class experience they expect from us, safely,” said Melonie Johnson, president and chief operating officer of Borgata, in a press release.

Safety plan in place for Borgata reopening

The Borgata will be following the seven-point safety plan instituted by MGM at all of its properties.

The plan includes enhanced cleaning schedules, required masks for all guests and employees, temperature checks and digital food and drink menus.

All Borgata employees will have gone through COVID-19-specific training. The resort will be following the state-mandated 25% capacity rule.

The casino’s Race & Sports Book will be open along with table games, but poker will be unavailable during this first phase.

Other changes for guests include:

  • Limited rooms available for reservations.
  • Disabling every other slot machine.
  • No eating, drinking or smoking inside.

The Borgata’s retail stores will also be open, and self-parking will be available. Valet parking will not be offered during the reopening.

Borgata AC to offer improved takeout dining options

Like the other casinos in Atlantic City, the Borgata will not be able to offer guests indoor dining. But the casino has come up with multiple options that will please guests.

The Borgata has expanded its outdoor dining offerings to give guests more options. Besides its existing beer, the resort will be offering food and beer trucks along with the brand-new Sunbar at the Water Club, a hotel connected to the Borgata.

To help with social distancing, menus will be offered via QR code, and guests will be notified that their table is ready via text messaging.

Another way that the resort will be offering guests food and drinks is through a new program called BorgataEATS. It allows takeout and delivery orders to be made at the Borgata’s many eateries that guests can eat in their room as well as at home.

In addition to BorgataEATS and expanded outdoor dining, the resort will be offering 24/7 in-room service for hotel guests along with grab-and-go options from a store in the resort such as Borgata Baking Company, Starbucks and The Marketplace Eatery.

“When we reopen, Borgata will introduce new outdoor dining experiences, as well as a convenient takeout program from several of our fine and casual dining outlets,” Johnson said.

“We appreciate our guests’ and employees’ patience and understanding and look forward to welcoming them back.”

At long last, the top-performing Atlantic City casino will be up and running. Welcome back, Borgata.