Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

You can’t always get what you want, sang Mick Jagger. Casino gamblers often learn this lesson at a high price. This time, however, it’s the business suits atop a casino that have lost. The Revel Casino Hotel has closed doors just two years after opening, making it yet another high dollar example of the flaky economics of casino gambling.

Revel became the second Atlantic City casino to shut down over Labor Day weekend, joining the Showboat, which shuttered its doors Sunday afternoon. Trump Plaza is closing on Sept. 16, and the Atlantic Club closed in January.

Thus, Atlantic City, which started the year with 12 casinos, will have eight before summer is over. Many casino analysts and industry executives say they expect the remaining casinos to fare better financially with less competition.

The consolidation is a reaction to the saturated northeastern U.S. casino market, which continues to add gambling halls to markets without enough demand to support them all. None was a costlier failure than Revel.

Readers will recall that I featured an op-ed from David Frum a month ago about negative net impact that casino gambling tends to have on local communities. Frum argued convincingly in that essay that casino gambling relies on patronage from the elderly and addicted, thus isolating its economic footprint from other community businesses. While a sluggish economic recovery probably exacerbates the casino conundrum, Frum concluded that the fundamental business model of the casino is unfriendly to community prosperity and growth.

This isn’t ideology, it’s basic economics. Social conservatives can be and are, of course, against expanded gambling for a variety of reasons, many of which are non-economic. Yet the remarkable decline of casino gaming in recent years makes it harder for even gambling’s most enthusiastic defenders to make a case.