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La. casino winnings fall in August

NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos, which have been fighting for fewer wagering dollars during the lengthy economic downturn, recorded a small dip in gambling revenue last month as compared with August 2009.

The 13 riverboats, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.’s downtown New Orleans casino and the four race track casinos won $193.4 million last month – down 2.4 percent from $199.8 million in August 2009, state police reported Sept. 16.

The tally was down 11.9 percent from $219.4 million in July 2010. July is typically one of the busiest months for the casino business, including the height of the summer season and a major holiday weekend.

After months of lengthy downturns in year-to-year comparisons of winnings, business has apparently picked up a bit – and not only in Louisiana.

Nevada’s casinos won 4.9 percent less in July than in July 2009. For much of the recession, that state showed double-figure dips in gambling revenue. Casinos in Mississippi were just about at the break-even point in the July-to-July comparison.

But there’s also more competition for gambling money. New Jersey’s casinos won 11.3 percent less in July than in July 2009 as neighboring Pennsylvania introduced table games to the slot machines that have already cut deeply into Atlantic City’s revenue. Louisiana gets competition along the coast from Mississippi casinos and Shreveport-Bossier City has been dealing with an increasing array of Indian nation casinos in Oklahoma. At the same time, tribal casino outlets in Florida are giving Mississippi more competition.

Cory Morowitz, an analyst who follows the casino industry for Galloway, N.J.-based Morowitz Gaming Advisors LLC, said the business may have seen the worst of the current downturn.

“The consumer is still not out of the woods,” Morowitz said. “But retail sales have picked up so there’s a bit more spending. If there’s not a double-dip recession, we’ve probably seen the worst.”

Morowitz said the future of the casino business is tied closely to the national economy. “I think the economy is ready to expand, but it’s waiting for some clear signals out of Washington,” he said.

Last month, Louisiana’s riverboats took in $134.7 million. The New Orleans land casino won $26.6 million and the track casinos recorded $32.1 million in winnings.

Among the state’s casino markets:

  • Shreveport-Bossier City, with five riverboats and the Louisiana Downs race track casino, won $63.8 million last month, virtually the same as in August 2009.
  • The Lake Charles area, with three riverboats and the Delta Downs track casino, took in $52.4 million last month, down from $56.2 million in August 2009. The New Orleans market, which has two riverboats, the land casino and the Fair Grounds track casino, won $50.1 million in August, a slight slide from $51.1 million in August 2009.

  • The two riverboats in Baton Rouge won $15.1 million, down from $16.2 million in August 2009.

  • The Evangeline Downs track casino at Opelousas won $7.6 million in August, a drop from $8.2 million in August 2009.

  • The lone riverboat in the Morgan City area won $4.3 million last month, up from $3.9 million in August 2009.

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

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