ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Free from having to deal with hurricanes this year, Atlantic City's casinos saw their revenues increase by 12.6 percent in August — a rare "up" month for a resort still reeling from competition all around it.
The city's casinos took in nearly $314 million from gamblers in August, marking just the second monthly increase in four years.
But no one was popping Champagne corks just yet: The comparison was to August 2011 when Hurricane Irene forced the casinos to close for three days, causing an estimated $45 million worth of lost business during what would have been one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Revel broke the $20 million mark in casino revenues in August, an increase of more than 14 percent from its performance in July. Even so, that was still only good enough to rank Revel eighth out of the city's 12 casinos — the same spot it has occupied since it opened in April.
"We made a little progress," said Kevin DeSanctis, Revel Entertainment's CEO. "August was a good month. I don't think one month is indicative of anything, but we are making some progress. We're clearly not where we want to be."
One encouraging indicator: Revel had almost the same number of visitors come through its doors in July and August — about 630,000 — but the casino managed to coax them into leaving more money behind in the slot machines and table games in August.
Revel did not open any new restaurants or attractions in August, and it had about the same amount of hotel rooms available to rent as it did in July, about 1,400.
DeSanctis said he expects Revel to continue increasing its casino winnings each month — even as the calendar enters fall and winter, traditionally slow periods for Atlantic City casinos.
"We're in a growth phase," he said. "I don't think seasonality at this point is relevant. Everybody else has had time to settle into an expected revenue pattern. If we don't have a great September, October or November, it really is us, from a marketing perspective, as opposed to a seasonal perspective."
Atlantic City — and the entire state of New Jersey — is closely watching Revel's performance. The state granted Revel tax incentives to help it open, and last month, the $2.4 billion resort secured additional private financing that it says will give it some much-needed breathing room at least through the end of 2013.
Revel has been counted on to help revive Atlantic City's flagging fortunes. The city had its best year in 2006, when casino revenues hit a high of $5.2 billion; they fell to $3.3 billion last year, and so far this year are down an additional 4.6 percent to $2.2 billion.
For Atlantic City as a whole, the 12 casinos won $226.1 million at slots last month, up 16.8 percent from a year ago, and $87.8 million at table games, up 3.3 percent from August 2011.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa retained its traditional spot as the Atlantic City market leader, with $55.2 million, up 1.4 percent from last August. Harrah's Resort Atlantic City was up 14.6 percent to just over $40 million; the Trump Taj Mahal was up 21 percent to $31.4 million; the Showboat Casino Hotel was up 2 percent to $22 million, and the Atlantic Club was up 24.6 percent to $14.7 million, though more than a quarter of that total was promotional credits handed out to gamblers that were then bet at the casino.
The Golden Nugget Atlantic City was up 16.1 percent to $13 million; and Resorts Casino Hotel was up 5 percent, also to $13 million.
Despite the favorable comparison with a hurricane-shortened month last year, four casinos still managed to take in less from gamblers this August.
Caesars Atlantic City won $38 million from gamblers, but that was down 0.3 percent from a year ago. Bally's Atlantic City took in $29.4 million, down 3.4 percent; The Tropicana Casino and Resort won $26 million, a decrease of 1.7 percent; and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino won $10.6 million, down 3.2 percent.
Atlantic City has been focusing intently on money earned from non-gambling sources in recent years, and statistics compiled by the resort's Convention and Visitors Authority showed several encouraging indicators, many of which also benefited from a comparison with a storm-shortened August last year.
More than 19,500 visitors stopped for information, directions or reservations at visitor centers on the Boardwalk and the Atlantic City Expressway last month, a 24 percent increase. For the year, such visits are up 10 percent over the first eight months of 2011.
Sixteen conventions or trade shows were held in Atlantic City last month, compared with six a year ago, the convention authority reported. They attracted nearly 5,000 attendees, who used more than 7,100 hotel rooms and generated more than $2.4 million in spending.
Wayne Parry can be reached at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.