ATLANTIC CITY — These days, seats are easier to find on the buses that ferry gamblers to Atlantic City’s casinos. Suddenly, the 25-cent slot players from Pennsylvania, New York and northern New Jersey don’t want to make the trip.
When they do, they’re nervous. They ask for rooms close to the ground. Rooms in high-rise casino towers, once the most desirable because of their spectacular Atlantic Ocean view, are now going begging.
“We’ve been here since Sunday, and we’re spending all night in the casino or the restaurant because we don’t want to go upstairs,” said Margaret Nierwinski, 48, of Trenton, who was staying at Trump Plaza.
“It isn’t just us. You don’t see the people like you used to. The casinos are definitely going to lose out,” she said.
The casinos, which normally flourish in both boom and lean times, have been struggling since Sept. 11, when hijacked jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Industry officials estimate a 10 percent reduction in gross revenue so far.
Casino company stock prices have fallen. And Park Place Entertainment Corp. of Las Vegas, the industry giant that owns four Atlantic City casino hotels, has put on hold plans for $87 million worth of renovations and additions to the properties.
“Any casino operator in Atlantic City right now will tell you that they’re seeing the worst results in the city’s history,” said casino industry analyst Jason Ader, senior managing director of Bear Stearns.
“Our research indicates that people don’t want to travel. It’s as simple as that. The leisure market is staying close to home, and business travelers don’t want to stray far either,” Ader said.
Park Place Entertainment, owner of Bally’s Park Place, Caesars Atlantic City, the Atlantic City Hilton and the Claridge Casino Hotel, has put off plans for a $50 million expansion of the Hilton, a $25 million pedestrian bridge linking the Claridge and Bally’s Park Place and a new $12 million facade for Caesars.
Company spokeswoman Debbie Munch would not comment on casino revenues or overall results Wednesday. “Visitation was better than we expected, given the terrible events that hit the region last week. We’re pleased the Miss America Pageant is being held as scheduled because it’s been a big boost.”
Officials at several other casinos did not respond to requests for interviews on the slowdown.
Walter Heck, 73, of Wyoming, Pa., who came by bus to gamble at Trump Plaza, said people are edgy since the attacks.
“I was eating in a restaurant at Caesars on Monday night, and a fire alarm went off. I never saw people move so quickly. It turned out to be a false alarm,” he said. Learn more about best online casino singapore
“Our bus driver told us a lot of people are canceling their trips,” said his wife Betty, 65.
Ader said casinos here could resort to layoffs to stem their losses.
But things could be worse. Experts say Las Vegas, which relies on air travel for up to 70 percent of its casino business, stands to suffer worse than Atlantic City.
Indeed, some who usually go to Las Vegas gamblers have come here instead.
“I was supposed to be in Las Vegas right now, but I’m here instead,” said Lucille Smith, 52, of Fallston, Md., who was gambling at Trump Plaza. “I’m afraid to fly now.”