Indiana casinos see steep drop in attendance; NWI shows only slight dip
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent December 10, 2012 3:58PM
Ameristar casino. | File Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 12, 2013 6:16AM
State-wide casino activity took a heavy hit in November in admissions and revenues, while Northwest Indiana’s casinos showed only slight dips in both.
The five area casinos took in a total of $82.3 million, a 4.5 percent drop in revenues compared to November 2011 and slightly more than the 2 percent average drop through the first 11 months of the year, according to the monthly revenue report issued Monday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.
“It’s a pretty consistent story, reflecting the continued economic choppiness at the national level and locally. The revenues are pretty indicative of that,” Dan Nita, senior vice president and general manager of Horseshoe Hammond Casino, said.
Horseshoe appeared to take the biggest hit of the five local casinos, with revenues dropping from $38.9 million last November to $34.9 million last month and admissions falling from 439,898 to 383,461. However, Nita attributed the lower admissions numbers to a new, more accurate software program and the drop in revenues to lucky blackjack winners.
“We made a few new millionaires,” Nita said.
He said the casino’s blackjack numbers tend to be more volatile, due to its brand. Baccarat plays can bet up to $100,000 a hand and blackjack players up to $50,000 a hand.
He said while the casino normally has a win of $3 million to $5 million a month, in November its win was under $22,000.
Ameristar Casino in East Chicago had $18.6 million in revenues last month compared to $18.5 million the previous November, Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City reported $13.6 million in revenues compared to $13.8 million last year and Majestic Star Casinos took in a total of $15.2 million last month, up slightly from the $15 million last November.
Gaming analyst Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Gaming Insight, said state-wide admissions in November were the lowest since 1997 and revenues were the lowest in any month since January 2008.
“And we had absolutely perfect weather,” Feigenbaum said.
Nita said Indiana’s casinos are feeling a lot of competitive pressure from surrounding states, including Illinois, which is considering adding several more casinos, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio.
“Not only are they all trying to chip away at the Indiana gaming that exists, but in our own state there are legislators helping to promote gaming in their own jurisdiction,” Nita said.
He said legislators would help all the casinos in the state more by lowering taxes to the gaming industry. He said Indiana has a graduated tax rate ranging of 15 percent to 40 percent in addition to an admission tax of $2 to $4, depending on the municipality. By comparison, he said some casinos in Michigan pay no taxes while Ohio’s effective tax rate is 20 percent.