Luckily for Atlantic City's casinos, customers such as Anthony DePula keep coming, despite high gasoline prices and a soft economy.
"I still go to Atlantic City often, where I can play blackjack," said DePula, a businessman from Ewing Township, near Trenton. "I've been going to Atlantic City for 28 years, and I'm not about to stop." He also has a Shore home in Sea Isle City.
Revenue figures released yesterday by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission showed that the 11 Atlantic City gambling halls took in $415.3 million last month, 1.6 percent more than they did in May 2007.
It was only the second time this year that the casinos reported a monthly increase, thanks primarily to the strength of table games and players like DePula.
Yesterday, on a day off from work, DePula took a 20-minute drive from home to PhiladelphiaPark Casino & Racetrack to play the dollar slots machines. "It's real convenient," DePula, 65, said.
Slots revenue still accounted for 70 percent of the Atlantic City casinos' total revenue last month - or $289.6 million. The rest, $125.7 million, came from table games.
The slots revenue was a 1.5 percent drop from May 2007, but it was more than offset by a 9.5 percent increase in revenue from table games. Pennsylvania's slots parlors do not offer dealer-staffed table games, only electronic games.
Several gambling palaces in Atlantic City, many of which have ramped up table-game offerings in the last two years, reported double-digit increases in table-games revenue. The top three increases were Harrah's Resort, up 37.5 percent; Trump Taj Mahal, up 31 percent; and Trump Marina, up 22.7 percent.
"We continue to see pretty solid growth in table games in the marketplace," said R. Scott Barber, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah's Resort, which will have nearly a 100 percent increase in table games by year's end.
For the first five months this year, Atlantic City's casinos took in $1.9 billion, down 5 percent from the 2007 period.
By comparison, Pennsylvania's seven slots parlors have made $653.3 million in gross slots revenue year-to-date.
Pennsylvania takes a 55 percent tax on gross slots revenue. That equated to $83.2 million from last month's $151.3 million in gross slots revenue. That money is used for property-tax relief and other government programs.
New Jersey takes a 9.25 percent tax on gross gaming revenue - $33.2 million last month - used to benefit senior citizens and people with disabilities.
PhillyPark, in Bensalem, made $32 million in gross slots revenue last month, edging out Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack for the top spot in Pennsylvania.
"It's convenient," said Joanie Dorsey of West Oak Lane. She was at PhillyPark yesterday for about five hours. "I can drive and be here in a half hour."
Dorsey, 53, a former bus-tripper to Atlantic City, has not been there since PhillyPark opened Dec. 19, 2006.