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NWI casinos’ revenue nearly flat in December

Updated: February 10, 2013 5:56PM



Warm weather helped Northwest Indiana’s five casinos end 2012 with a combined slight 1 percent drop in revenues compared to December 2011, but the state’s top gaming official is warning that this could be the calm before an expected storm of competition from neighboring states.

The casinos took in a total of $91.8 million in revenues last month compared to $92.7 million in December 2011, according to the monthly revenues report issued Tuesday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Horseshoe Hammond led the region with a 2 percent increase, raking in $42.3 million compared to $41.4 million in December 2011. Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City held steady at $14.2 million each year, while Ameristar Casino in East Chicago took a slight dip, taking in $20.5 million last month compared to $20.8 million the previous December.

Majestic Star Casinos in Gary suffered the biggest drop, taking in $14.8 million last month compared to $16.3 million the previous December.

Dan Nita, senior vice president and general manager of Horseshoe Hammond, said the casino was aided by warm weather in both Decembers, but not by the calendar, which had New Year’s Eve on a Monday this year.

“Going into the weekend we had hopes and expectations that a five-day weekend would help, but New Year’s was off to a slow start,” Nita said.

Matt Schuffert, senior vice president and general manager of Ameristar, added New Year’s Eve fell on a Saturday in 2011, which resulted in more guests celebrating at the casino last year.

Nita said Illinois casinos’ results also were down 1 percent last month, an indication, he said, that there are enough venues in the Chicago gaming market.

“I don’t know how Illinois legislators believe there’s an untapped demand,” Nita said, referring to resurrected talks of possibly adding more gaming licenses in the state, including several in the Chicago area.

In his annual report to the governor, Ernest Yelton, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, wrote that 2012 will be remembered as the relative calm before the state braces for a storm of competition for gaming revenues by surrounding states, including Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.

Yelton said wagering taxes throughout the state dropped 4.23 percent in fiscal year 2012, attributing some of the shortfall to the opening of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill., which he said had a greater impact on Indiana gaming than originally anticipated.

Local general managers have pointed the finger at The Rivers and the economy as two reasons for lackluster revenues in 2012.

Yelton said admissions taxes dropped 2.68 percent, which he said shows while patronage is steady, the amount that is being spent is dropping.

Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Gaming Insight, said casino operators in Indiana should be worried about both impending competition and the continuing downturn in the economy.

“They will force some casinos to make some very difficult decisions. Is it time to invest, beef up their properties, before new ones come in Illinois?” he said.

Schuffert said while not wanting to speculate about the future, the casino continues to monitor any potential gaming expansions as well as any legislation that would potentially hurt the business.

“Continuous improvement still remains a core business value for Ameristar and we are constantly looking for ways to enhance the gaming experience for our guests,” said Schuffert, who pointed out the casino recently introduced a new, spacious table game area on its third level that features new games and new bets.



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