ATLANTIC CITY - Table games are not even a year old at Pennsylvania casinos, but they are already claiming market share and jobs in the casino industry here.
While slots revenue has been free-falling for four years, figures released Tuesday by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement confirmed what had been suspected since poker and blackjack debuted in Pennsylvania in July - the new competition would eat into what had been 25 percent of Atlantic City's revenue.
Total casino revenue among 11 gambling halls fell 7.1 percent last month, to $289.4 million, from April 2010, according to the DGE. While slots revenue took a 3.4 percent hit, revenue from table games registered a 15.4 percent decrease, to $80.9 million.
Reflective of tables' precipitous slide, during the same month five years ago before casinos sprang up in Pennsylvania, the then-dozen Atlantic City casinos reported $440.2 million in revenue. Of that, $324.2 million, or nearly 74 percent, came from slot machines. The rest, $116 million, came from table games. That is a 30 percent decrease in five years.
This week, at least three casinos - the Borgata, Trump Taj Mahal, and Trump Plaza - confirmed they had cut staff for blackjack and other table games. Borgata released 50 such workers on Monday.
Brian Cahill, spokesman for Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., said the new regulatory structure at the resort, along with the economy, drove the decision.
"Decisions such as these are never easy," Cahill said. "We do not take them lightly or without compassion for all of our colleagues."
Legislation to ease regulations here, known as S-12, was signed into law by Gov. Christie on Feb. 1 and allows Atlantic City casinos more flexibility in deciding their staffing levels.
"The layoffs are not surprising, given the reduction in play because of the increased competition," said gaming analyst John Kempf, of RBC Capital Markets in New York. "We wouldn't be surprised to see continued cost-cutting efforts by the casinos."
The staff reductions come as Atlantic City enters its peak season.
DGE data showed four A.C. gambling halls failed to meet cash operating expenses last year: Resorts, Atlantic City Hilton, Trump Plaza, and Trump Marina.
Pennsylvania, which currently has 854 table games among 10 casinos, will likely exert even more pressure.
Market-leading Parx, in Bensalem, is adding 53 tables games by the end of June, bringing its total to 203, the most in the state. Parx, Harrah's Chester Casino and Racetrack in Delaware County, and SugarHouse on the Philadelphia waterfront are the closest Pennsylvania casinos to Atlantic City.