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Editor at Large

Why would any Pennsylvanian drive to Atlantic City to gamble?

- Last modified: September 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Gambling revenues in Atlantic City have fallen again -- and it's no secret that competition from Pennsylvania casinos is a big reason for the decline.

The latest statistics -- for August -- show a 5 percent decline in revenue for Atlantic City's casinos when compared to August 2012. (AC's stats for September will get a slight revenue boost from my losses last weekend, but that's another story.)

The real question to ask is why would any Pennsylvanian drive to Atlantic City purely to gamble -- especially when it's not summer? The drive is long for most Pennsylvanians, and the cost to get there certainly is becoming an issue for many.

For example, someone driving from the Lehigh Valley will pay the following in tolls for the trip to and from Atlantic City: $8 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, $7.50 on the Atlantic City Expressway and $5 on the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philly. Toss in $10 a day for parking and at least $30 for gasoline, and you're out $60 before you even place a bet.

And that doesn't include time and aggravation fighting the traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway or Interstate 95 or Route 42, depending on the route that you take.

It's quicker, easier and cheaper just to drive to the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Mount Airy Casino in Mount Pocono, Parx Casino in Bensalem or even Hollywood Casino near Hershey.

In the summer, it might be different, as obviously there is plenty of appeal in going to the beach, either in AC or in a nearby town. And, of course, there are bus trips that offer promotions.

But if you want to drive and just want to gamble for a few hours or all day, staying local appears to be the way to go -- at least in the Greater Lehigh Valley.

Atlantic City, by the way, seems to be similar to Las Vegas in one regard. Some of AC's older casinos on its Boardwalk seem to be stuck in the 1970s and 1980s, which is kind of like Vegas' casinos on Fremont Street in Old Town Vegas. The Fremont Street casinos are not as popular as the newer, brighter, bigger casinos on the Vegas Strip.

In Atlantic City, one casino far off the Boardwalk -- the Borgata -- is in a way similar to those new casinos on the Strip in Vegas. Brighter and bigger, the Borgata is one of just a few AC casinos to post a revenue increase in August.

Another that posted an increase is the Revel, which technically is on the Boardwalk but at its northeastern tip. The Revel capitalized on a "Gamblers Wanted" promotion in August in which it promised to refund gambling losses to slots players.

And another winner in August in AC is Resorts, which continues to benefit from its new Margaritaville bar, restaurant and gambling complex, according to CBS3 Philadelphia.

What does it mean? Except for isolated successes, likely a continued downward spiral overall for Atlantic City casinos -- although at some point revenues should stabilize.

Meanwhile, I won't return to Atlantic City until next summer.

For more on the latest revenues for Atlantic City, click here.

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