ATLANTIC CITY — The city’s ability to grow non-gaming attractions like convention business and large trade shows could be hampered by the loss of thousands of casino rooms in the past three years.
Tourism and industry data show the resort has lost nearly four out of 10 casino hotel rooms, a result of five casino closings since 2014.
Casino closings dropped available hotel rooms to 13,461 by the end of September, compared with 18,448 three years earlier, according to state Division of Gaming Enforcement data. An additional 2,010 rooms were lost when Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort closed in October.
The city gained back a small portion of its lost rooms, 852, in July, when Bart Blatstein reopened Showboat as a hotel only.
The loss of rooms complicates efforts as the city aims to draw visitors not attracted solely to gambling.
“The greatest need for rooms is felt during the busy season and sold-out weekends when visitors will not find accommodation and thus possibly not come,” said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.
That could cut not only gambling revenue but how much people spend on food and drinks and shopping in Atlantic City, he said.
Anthony Marino, a local market analyst and retired executive with the South Jersey Transportation Authority, said the Atlantic City Convention Center “still seems able to book large trade and gate shows that attract regional participants, many of whom do not stay overnight in the city.”
“Clearly, however, constrained by the declining inventory of quality hotel rooms, the convention business in Atlantic City may struggle in coming years,” he said.
Jim Wood, CEO of Meet AC, Atlantic City’s convention and visitors’ bureau, said the city can meet the needs of its largest conventions. But he is concerned about a reduction in casino hotel room inventory.
“The loss of the Taj and its 2,000 rooms plus its meeting space is significant,” he said.
The Convention Center recently hosted two big events — the New Jersey School Boards Association and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities conferences.
The School Boards Association used 3,900 rooms during its peak night in early November. The League of Municipalities used 3,375 rooms during its peak night in December.
Help could soon be on the way, as nearly 1,400 rooms are slated to come back online after TEN, the former Revel casino, opens. Management of the property has said they expect it to reopen sometime during the first quarter.
“We are pleased that TEN is starting to take group business in anticipation of reopening sometime in 2017 and that Showboat is back online as well,” Wood said. “Atlantic City still has enough committable hotel rooms to accommodate our largest conventions.”