Making the News

Philadelphia Inquirer

Originally Published:Wednesday, November 4, 2009
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/breaking/business_breaking/69246517.html

Pa. slots revenue up, but competition looms

By Suzette Parmley
Philadelphia Inquirer

Slots revenue at Pennsylvania's casinos increased nearly 32 percent last month from a year ago, but new gambling competition is now looming in Ohio after voters there approved a referendum in yesterday's election.

Led by PhiladelphiaPark Casino & Racetrack in Bensalem, the state's nine operating casinos produced $177.1 million in gross slots revenue, compared with $134.2 million in October 2008. The state gets a 55 percent cut of the revenue.

PhillyPark, which opens a $250 million expanded facility next month, took in $29.6 million, up 8.8 percent from a year ago. It was followed by another Philadelphia suburban casino, Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack, which reported a 3.8 percent increase in slots revenue to $25.6 million.

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County, about 29 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, ranked third with $22.6 million, up 9.6 percent.

"We believe that the excellent growth that we're seeing in Pennsylvania is indicative of the consumer's desire for convenience-based gaming," said consultant Harvey Perkins, senior vice president at Spectrum Gaming Group L.L.C., of Linwood, N.J.

Only two casinos, Presque Isle Downs & Casino and Mount Airy Resort Casino, registered declines - 2.3 percent at Presque Isle and 19.1 percent at Mount Airy. Mount Airy's business has been hit hard by the addition this summer of the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem.

Even as overall slots revenue climbs, Pennsylvania wants more. Lawmakers in Harrisburg are making final a bill to legalize table games. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which released the figures today, said it could have table games up and running anywhere from six to nine months after Gov. Rendell signs a bill.

Competition from neighboring states has been cited as one of the reasons for the push for table games in Pennsylvania. Delaware will add table games alongside slot machines come spring. The 11 casinos in Atlantic City - which will release their October revenue numbers Tuesday - have marketed dealer-staffed table games as an advantage over Pennsylvania's slots-only parlors.

But Pennsylvania now faces another threat: Ohio became the 13th U.S. state to allow casinos, as voters approved gaming halls in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo yesterday.

Gambling analyst Andrew Zarnett of Deutsche Bank AG said the addition of Ohio would "cannibalize gaming revenues at West Virginia, southern Indiana, and Western Pennsylvania properties" - including the Meadows and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.

Rivers, which opened Aug. 9, welcomes buses filled with Ohio gamblers regularly. The casino came in seventh among the state's nine casinos last month, taking in $16 million.

 


Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or [email protected].

 

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