The shift toward Pennsylvania is apparent in employment, too. Executives at some Pennsylvania casinos, which have had to hire hundreds of workers to prep for the table games, say as many as half of the people who interviewed for the jobs were from Atlantic City casinos.
Chris Bastian, who's about to begin a job at the Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono, Pa., left a job as a table-games floor supervisor at Harrah's Casino Hotel in Atlantic City to take the same position in Pennsylvania. He deemed the mood in Atlantic City, where he worked for nearly 30 years, "awful."
"There's no way to compare the two. One's getting smaller and the other is going through major expansion," he said.
Analysts have fueled some of the uncertainty surrounding Atlantic City. Several say one or more of the facilities could close in the near future because of the financial struggles there.
New Jersey officials are ready to fight. Mr. Lesniak has proposed putting two constitutional amendments before voters that could lead to legalized sports betting and Internet gambling. That has yet to gain traction, in part because a 1992 federal law restricts sports betting to the four statesóDelaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregonóthat allowed it before the statute took effect. Mr. Lesniak is suing to overturn the law.
Ms. Kassekert said Atlantic City still has more entertainment to offer than Pennsylvania, but that standing pat during the nearby expansion wouldn't work.
"The world around us has changed," she said. "We need more and better attractions to make it through this challenge."