Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day Trippers, Come Back

Atlantic City has reported a precipitous decline in its slot machine population. In 2005 the World's Playground had more machines (42,000) than people (40,300). That was a time when the smelly buses would come in from neighboring states with day tripping rubes, ready to play. Yes, they were the halcyon days. As of May 2010 the one armed bandit and the automatic push a button slots fell by 30% to 29,000. Needless to say, casino profits have fallen. And considering gambling is the "industry" of Atlantic County, times are getting gray.

Have no fear, gambling continues to be the major growth industry in this country. Over the last five years, the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware have begun to crack the can of gambling plenty. For example in 2005, the three neighbors had about 11,000 slot machines. Now in 2010 their slot machine totals exceed 42,000. Many of the traveling bus heads, the day trippers, have found machines closer to home.

To look at it another way, in 2005 the 4 states housed approximately 53,000 devices. That total grew to about 71,000 by 2010. Overall that's an increase of 40%. Indeed the gambling industry is alive, well and growing. While Atlantic City is a relative loser, a decline had to occur considering that the New Jersey concession had a near monopoly for over 20 years. It is sad for the old dowager of a city that she was unable to make any real hay while the sun shone so brightly. But, there is still a lot of gold to be mined. Gambling is the leading hobby and past time of Americans and as such there is a lot of dough to pass around.

Atlantic City's rage machines are "Sex in the City" and Amazing Race". Customers line up to play these attractive and enticing units. Some might consider it all silly since slot machines are all the same. You put in your money, you activate, you watch some mesmerizing electronic activity and the pre programmed device returns a percentage of your money. And of course that percentage is less than 100. Over time the odds are designed for the customer to lose and for the casino to win. If a Martian landed on the beach and he analyzed this activity, he would think the customer must be from Earth.

Speaking of the "Sex in the City" machine, the casinos can't get enough of them. People stand in lines to play them. Those New York girls do have style. Grace Marchione, a 78 year old slotter from Nutley, NJ was recently quoted in the The Press, "I feel young when I look at that machine, even at my age." as she stood her turn in line. She avowed a love of these sexy themed gizmos. Sexy, ah, indeed, sex sells.

So, for now, Atlantic City is in slot machine retraction mode. This phenomenon is simply a example of market mechanics at work. Over time, there will be more chances to generate profits. It can be said with certainty that the gambling industry is here to stay. There are times, now, when the diesel stink of all of those buses pouring down the Atlantic City Expressway would smell like Beyonce's Heat* to the casino executives and planners, who thought the day trippers were not their target market. Ahem.


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