The first major casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., opened in the late 1970s and early ’80s — welcoming such performers as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli and Paul Anka — and for years the town thrived as a well-positioned market for artists routing tours through the Northeast.
But the gambling mecca of the East Coast is expected to lose five of its 12 casinos by the end of 2014, brought on by competition from other gambling properties in neighboring states. In early September, the local music scene lost the 2,550-capacity House of Blues at the Showboat and the 5,000-capacity Ovation Hall at Revel. The market will take another hit in November with the expected closing of Trump Taj Mahal, which houses the 5,300-capacity Mark G. Etess Arena.
Several local live-entertainment executives insisted to Billboard that the casino closures will not significantly affect bookings at their respective concert venues. But other industry players familiar with the market believe the casino closures could result in fewer concerts in the city.
“It’s going to hurt the market, there’s no doubt,” says Stan Levinstone, president of SLP Concerts and former booker for House of Blues, which grossed $3.3 million from 52 shows that drew 79,000 people between January 2013 and July 2014, according to Billboard Boxscore. “I don’t know if a lot of those bands are going to end up finding a place to play.”
But Ken Fermaglich, a senior vp at The Agency Group, says he believes the market has enough venues for artists to choose from.
“The market itself is healthy,” he says. “It’s just that there are too many hotel rooms.”