NJ Casinos Attract Younger Gamblers

Casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, are noting a rise in younger visitors as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep cautious elderly customers at bay. The demographic shift, which has also seen more families visiting than before, has also been attributed to discounted room rates making the destinations more appealing.

Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City.

Casinos in Atlantic City have noted a large shift in customer demographics, with younger gamblers and families visiting more than the usual elderly customer base. ©BruceEmmerling/Pixabay

The increase in younger customers to Atlantic City casinos has been noticed by casino executives and workers for the past decade though never to this extent. To many in the industry, the preparations of the industry to appeal to younger visitors and non-gamblers in pre-coronavirus times has been a saving grace.

This is despite the fact that indoor dining, drinking, and smoking on the casino floor is still prohibited, while luxury and entertainment options have also been severely limited. According to the president of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ), there are a number of reasons older customers are staying away from casinos.

For one, the elderly that previously made up the majority of casinos’ core customer base are more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, the absence of usual comforts and added social restrictions are viewed by many older patrons as being too detrimental to the visiting experience.

This has discouraged older guests from visiting at all or visiting less frequently than they usually would. As the CANJ president points out, it’s likely that many are waiting for restrictions to ease or a vaccine is released before they return to their usual habits, whether that be visiting family and friends or casinos.

“We are seeing that the older the customer is, the less frequent we are seeing that customer compared to last year. I think it’s very expected that the older customer segment is a little bit more leery of going out in public with the risk of COVID, and the numbers specifically show that.”Joe Lupo, President, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City speaking to the Press of Atlantic City

Whatever the reason, younger visitors do not seem to be as deterred from visiting casinos as their older counterparts. In fact, a number of casinos have access to metrics that show that both hotel bookings and loyalty card signups are exploding in popularity with the younger market.

According to Ron Baumann, the general manager for Caesars Entertainment, the first two weeks of July after the 15-week casino closures saw 6,000 first-time CAESARS Rewards cards activated. A large percentage of these were done by people between the ages of 29 and 39.

Baumann also noted that younger customers with rewards cards had been visiting more often than they had before the coronavirus. This is also true for family visitors, who are undoubtedly being lured by the cheaper hotel room rates during the Summer holiday season.

Rates of all Atlantic City casino hotels are lower this Summer than they have been in years, and with travel restrictions in place, families are choosing to stay at local casinos instead. This may continue to repel older guests, who may be fearful of visitors being less vigilant when it comes to virus prevention.

The Outlook for Atlantic City Stabilization

Although the casino industry was well aware that it would see a drop in older visitors once casinos reopened, it is still adamant in trying to appeal to older customers to return. One way it can do this is by ensuring older patrons are aware of health protocols in place that are keeping casinos safe.

According to Bob Ambrose, a gaming industry consultant, casino health and safety precautions are even better than supermarkets. For this reason, it’s likely that casinos will prove themselves to be safe destinations in time and in turn, rebuild trust with an older customer base.

The increase in visitors is important to casinos, with news that two casino relief bills have made no progress in weeks recently announced. One bill which seeks to reduce gaming revenue taxes for a year has failed to be approved by the Assembly despite being approved by the Senate in June. The other bill seeks to grant interest-free loans to casino operators.

Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald has said that while he has sponsored both bills, lawmakers are continuing to adapt their approach as the virus continues to spread. One of the largest issues that they are facing is how to get casino employees back to work rather than providing tax relief.

Despite the closures and capacity restrictions, casinos in Atlantic City have each been dealing with the virus differently. Although major casinos are reporting massive financial losses for the year, the Ocean Casino Report has reported a year-over-year increase in gaming revenues of 20 to 25 percent compared to July 2019.

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Skyline of Atlantic City at day.

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