Revenue largely holds steady at Louisiana casinos

Published 10:57 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Winnings from gamblers at Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos in February declined 5.9 percent from February 2008, but the short Mardi Gras month pulled in almost as much revenue as January, state police reported Tuesday.

The state’s 13 riverboats, Harrah’s New Orleans land casino and the four slot machine-only casinos won $222 million last month, down from $236 million in February 2008, but almost identical to the $222.2 million gamblers lost in January.

The riverboats won $153.4 million last month, the land casino took in $31.4 million and the four slot machine casinos at race tracks added $37.2 million to the take.

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February of 2008 fell in a leap year, meaning there was one more day in the month. Also that month included parts of five weekends. Harrah’s New Orleans won a record $37.7 million in February 2008, fueled not only by Mardi Gras but the city’s hosting of the NBA All-Star Game. Harrah’s won $31.4 million last month.

Louisiana’s casino revenue has been holding steady in defiance of many national trends in gambling states such as Nevada and New Jersey.

Next door, in Mississippi, play has been recovering following hurricane rebuilding of coastal casinos, the opening of Indian reservation casinos and race track casinos in Florida and the deep recession that has cut tourism.

In January, the latest month for which figures are available, Mississippi casinos took in $221 million compared to $204.3 million in December. Compared to January 2008, however, statewide revenues were down only $3 million.

Among Louisiana’s casino markets:

— In Shreveport-Bossier City, which includes five dockside casinos and the Louisiana Downs track casino, gamblers lost $70.9 million last month, down from $75.7 million in February 2008. That market has been facing strong competition for Texas gamblers from Oklahoma Indian reservation casinos.

— In Lake Charles, the three riverboats and the Delta Downs track casino won $56.6 million, up slightly from $55.8 million in February 2008. That market also is heavily dependent on gamblers from Texas, where the legislature is currently considering the legalization of casinos.

— In the New Orleans market, which includes two riverboats and the Fair Grounds track casino in addition to Harrah’s, gamblers lost $59 million, down from $66.5 million a year ago.

— The two riverboats in Baton Rouge won $20.8 million last month, down a bit from $21.5 million in February 2008.

— The lone riverboat in the Morgan City area, the Amelia Belle, won $5.3 million in February, up from $4.9 million in February 2008.

— The Evangeline Downs track casino at Opelousas won $9.4 million last month, down from $9.6 million in February 2008.

Not included in the report are the tallies from the three Indian reservation casinos in Louisiana, which are not required to report their winnings to the public.