The casino recovery in Atlantic City will depend on increase in visitations to the state and better foot traffic, researchers say.
Mobile Data Reveals Drop in Foot Traffic in NJ Casinos
Atlantic City casinos may have been focusing on the wrong thing about their recovery, Professor Bruce Mizrach of Rutgers University in new Jersey says. According to Mizrach, it will all boil down to the rate of visitations.
The professor used cell phone data to analyze that over 50% of all casinos have been wiped off the map in terms of visitations during the lockdown. While other businesses have kept entertaining patrons in one form or another, casino’s foot traffic has collapsed.
Meanwhile, delivery services, transit stations, lodgings and even some public eaters have been doing well, provided that they have complied with the necessary safety measures. Mizrach said that if a vaccine is discovered and immunization can begin, the economy and tourism could pick up very quickly, but forecasting such development was still contingent on the research of pharmaceutical companies.
To conduct an in-depth study of the exact impact COVID-19 has had on the casino economy, Mizrach has teamed up with Rutgers economics department research assistant Max Miller and together have used SafeGraph to analyze cell-phone signals.
The survey stretched from June 29 through July 20, or the first three weeks that Atlantic City casinos have been allowed to reopened. On July 26, the Atlantic City’s Borgata also restarted operations, delaying the initial launch by a fair bit.
The report confirmed what was already known, i.e. casino properties experienced rapid foot traffic decline, ranging from 20% at some venues to 71% for Harrah’s for example. However, there has been a positive trend in casino visits, from 11,331 patrons for a week through the period ending on July 5 to 21,957 through the period ending July 26.
Online Gaming Not Part of the Equation
Mizrach and Miller have focused exclusively on foot traffic and where consumers physically go. In this sense, they have not conducted any studies pertaining to online gaming, which has allowed the state to hit $422.7 million in revenue during the first six months of 2020, or a 50% increase year-over-year.
The pair have said that online gaming has been a lifeline for the industry and a way to buoy up results in the trying times:
“Probably the lifeline for the casinos has been their online gaming, because people have been able to do that. We know that people that are not working are day-trading. There’s a lot of action on that. And I suspect that the same is probably also true for online gaming.”Rutgers economics department research assistant Max Miller
According to Miller, though, reopening is not necessarily to blame for the spike in cases. Analyzing foot traffic in malls in several states, Miller believes that premature and not well-thought-through measures are a deeper issue for states than are reopening businesses per se.