My Turn: Atlantic City offers a skewed view of casinos
The debate about casino gambling has hit the silly point when this newspaper suggests following the lead of none other than Donald Trump (Monitor Opinion, July 20). As a matter of fact, it is way beyond silly to tell legislators to thumb their noses at $120 million in license fees alone, almost 2,000 badly needed construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs. The alternative is what?
The closing of Trump’s casino in Atlantic City is no big surprise. For some time, the casinos in Atlantic City have been feeling the pressure from competition that did not exist a few years ago. As a matter of fact, for many years Las Vegas and Atlantic City had no competition and controlled 100 percent of the gambling market, but other states have expanded into the market with “high-end” destination casinos that are far more appealing than the old casinos of Atlantic City.
While the Atlantic City market has gotten smaller, the regional market has grown with new casinos in neighboring states like Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Maryland and Connecticut.
The discussion for the past couple of years here in New Hampshire has focused on the fact that older casinos that were “first-in” never contemplated nearby competition that exists today and they are feeling it, but overall many new markets are doing very well.
Case in point, just look next door to Maine.
Maine has been quite smart in avoiding saturation by allowing only two casinos. And the numbers are quite amazing. In 2006, casino net revenues were $37.5 million; the past three years have brought in net revenues of $59.4 million in 2011, $99.2 million in 2012 and $126.2 million in 2013.
And so far this year Maine is on track to surpass last year’s numbers. Anyone want to bet a good amount of that revenue is coming from New Hampshire residents?
That’s why this year, when the New Hampshire Legislature worked on casino legislation, lawmakers took into consideration nearby competition in Maine, and soon, Massachusetts, something Atlantic City never contemplated.
Even Moody’s rating agency, in its recent report, cited places doing very well (such as Maine), as well as places facing competition challenges. Our region remains the most significant untapped area in the entire Northeast.
Professor Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, recently summed up the situation as it relates to our region.
“The last two significant pockets in the Northeast really are in New York and Massachusetts, and I would include New Hampshire in all of that, as well,” Barrow said.
Even casino opponents can’t ignore one reality: Boston (and Southern New Hampshire) is the biggest metropolitan market in the Northeast without a casino within an hour’s drive.
“I have always said I still think just in the New England market you have another $1.5 billion to $2 billion in gaming demand based on what and where you locate it,” Barrow said. “Saturation is not a set number. There is not a magic formula that gets you there. You have to look at the number and size of facilities, the population and the income growth in each market.”
Barrow said destination resort casinos are the most likely model for success in New England. That’s why Massachusetts took into consideration impact from neighboring states when it passed its law.
I am at a loss to understand why the Monitor wants to suggest they know better than the banks who will lend hundreds of millions of dollars with no risk whatsoever for the state. I think you protest too much, but your agenda is quite obvious. Thanks for the advice, but I have no plans to follow Donald Trump.
(Katherine D. Rogers is a state representative from Concord.)