NWI casinos finally see a little revenue growth
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent September 10, 2012 3:52PM
Updated: October 12, 2012 6:12AM
Northwest Indiana’s five casinos broke a five-month string of declining revenues in August, taking in a collective $93.3 million, a 5.5 percent hike over August 2011.
Leading the pack was Horseshoe Hammond, the top revenue-generating casino in the state, with a 12.6 percent increase.
Horseshoe took in $42 million last month compared to $37.5 million the previous month, according to the monthly revenue report released Monday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.
Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City raked in $15.4 million in revenues, compared to $14.8 million last August, and Majestic Star Casinos in Gary took in $16.7 million compared to $16 million the previous year. Only Ameristar in East Chicago saw a drop, with $19.1 million in revenues last month compared to $20.3 million the previous year.
Dan Nita, senior vice president and general manager of Horseshoe Hammond, said total Chicago area casino revenues for both Illinois and Indiana markets were down 2.5 percent, meaning Illinois lost while Indiana gained. Also, Illinois’ newest casino, The Rivers, had a 23 percent decline over last August, its first full month of operation.
Nita attributed some of Horseshoe’s increase to a strong Labor Day weekend and a higher hold in certain table games over last year.
“Our overall hold last month was 23 percent. Last year it was 12 percent. The normal hold is in the middle,” Nita said.
Still, neither Nita nor Ed Feigenbaum, Indiana gaming analyst, were optimistic that one good month would lead to an upward trend.
“The business fundamentals are still pretty choppy. There’s no indication that the economy is getting better or worse,” Nita said.
Feigenbaum warned that while August’s revenue hike is a positive sign for casino operators, there are a number of market factors that indicate it may not last.
“Obviously, we need to see improvements over the next several months before we can breathe a sigh of relief,” Feigenbaum said.
He said while Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn vetoed the expanded gaming legislation on the table there, there is talk of a more focused and limited approach in the neighboring state.
“When you do that, people are more willing to invest and spend more money for marketing, and they will go after Indiana casinos as a result,” Feigenbaum said.
He also pointed out that the effect of the new Hard Rock Cafe and entertainment venue at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., is not yet known and an additional Native American casino is being contemplated in South Bend.
Nita said he didn’t think Four Winds’ new entertainment venue would hurt the one at Horseshoe, but said a Native American casino in South Bend would have a severe impact on Blue Chip, which was already hurt by Four Winds.
“If I were the senior leadership at Blue Chip, I would be very much concerned,” Nita said.