La. casino revenue down 1.3 percent over year

Published 3:10 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos came out of the year after the September 2008 financial meltdown not much worse for the wear — at least as far as taking in money from gamblers — and much better off than casinos in many other states.

Figures released Tuesday by state police show that, from October 2008 through last month, the 13 riverboat casinos, Harrah’s New Orleans casino and the four race track casinos took in just under $2.54 billion. That’s only a tad off the $2.57 billion won from gamblers from October 2007 through September 2008.

Among the state’s competitive casino markets, Lake Charles saw a 6.3 percent gain, Shreveport-Bossier City was down 5.3 percent, New Orleans fell 5.2 percent and Baton Rouge recorded a drop of 1.8 percent in the year-to-year comparison. Shreveport-Bossier City and Lake Charles cater to gamblers from Texas.

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Casino revenue remained largely stable — far above most other casino states, such as New Jersey, Nevada and Mississippi that have seen double-digit drops — during a time when Louisiana’s unemployment rate went from about 5 percent to nearly 8 percent and thousands of jobs were lost statewide. The revenue total was in line with that posted by the state during the last three October-through-September periods — around $2.5 billion.

“There’s probably more things positive happening in Louisiana gaming now than in most other states,” said Steve Ruggiero, a casino industry analyst for CRT Capital Group.

Ruggiero said the state was still enjoying the benefit of post-hurricane relief payments “and some of that money is finding its way into the casinos.”

However, pointing to Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.’s Lake Charles riverboat resort, Ruggiero also said the state was getting more into the competitive game. “You have a very high quality product being accepted across state lines,” he said.

In September 2009, all of the state’s licensed casinos won $188.1 million. Of that, the riverboats won $132.1 million, the New Orleans casino won $25.4 million and the track casinos took in $30.6 million. That was a sharp, but largely meaningless jump from the $162.8 million won in September 2008, a month marked by several lengthy casino closures because of hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Among the state’s casino markets last month:

— In Shreveport-Bossier City, with five riverboats and the Louisiana Downs track casino, gamblers left behind $62 million.

— In Lake Charles, three riverboats and the Delta Downs track casino won $51.5 million.

— In New Orleans, with two riverboats, the land casino and the Fair Grounds track casino, players lost $48.1 million.

— The two riverboats in Baton Rouge won $15.4 million.

— The Evangeline Downs track casino at Opelousas won $7.4 million.

— The lone riverboat in Morgan City won $3.7 million.

September is generally a somewhat slow month in the industry.

The figures do not include the three Indian reservation casinos in Louisiana, which are not required to report their winnings to the public.