UPDATE: Some Missouri casinos see revenue decline

Thursday, December 11, 2008 | 3:20 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — The economic downturn is hurting the nation’s gambling hot spots, but the Missouri casino industry is more than holding its own, state Gaming Commission executive director Gene McNary said Thursday.

Five Missouri casinos took in less money in November than they did a year earlier, according to figures released by the Gaming Commission. But five others had higher revenue. One broke even and one, Lumiere Place in St. Louis, had no point of comparison because it opened in December 2007.

In fact, McNary said the addition of Lumiere Place has strengthened the St. Louis market well beyond expectations.

“Missouri casinos in the St. Louis metro area, year over year, are up 24 percent,” McNary said. “Lumiere Place didn’t cannibalize the other casinos as much as was feared and added to the pie.

“I think that’s significant, especially during an economic downturn.”

Other regions around the country aren’t so lucky. Nevada casinos had a record slump of 22.3 percent in October, according to figures released on Wednesday. In Atlantic City, N.J., casinos had a 7.8 percent revenue decline in November.

Those casinos rely on gamblers from around the country. Missouri casinos are regional attractions, McNary said. He projected that 70 percent of Missouri casino gamblers are senior citizens, many on fixed incomes.

“Even during an economic downturn they’re going to have money to spend on entertainment, because the fixed income is still coming in,” McNary said.

Missouri casinos are also likely getting a boost because of voter approval of Proposition A, which eliminated the state’s $500 loss limit. But the full extent of that boost isn’t yet known.

In St. Louis, the opening of Lumiere Place has clearly impacted one casino — the President.

The President and Lumiere Place are both owned by Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., and sit within a few hundred yards of each other near the Gateway Arch. The President, a former riverboat that lacks the size or glitz of other urban casinos in Missouri, has seen a revenue decline of 61 percent since July, and had a 53 percent decline in November compared to a year ago.

A phone message left with Pinnacle was not returned.

Overall, monthly revenue for the state’s casinos rose 9 percent. But excluding Lumiere Place, revenue at the other 11 casinos declined 2 percent.

The biggest downturn outside of the President was at Isle of Capri in Boonville, down 8 percent. Three other casinos — Harrah’s in St. Louis County, Harrah’s in North Kansas City and Ameristar in Kansas City — saw 3 percent revenue declines.

Five casinos made more money in November than a year ago, led by the Mark Twain in La Grange. Revenue there rose 12 percent. Revenue at Argosy in Kansas City and at Lady Luck in Caruthersville rose 8 percent. Isle of Capri in Kansas City had a 3 percent increase, and St. Jo Frontier casino saw a 1 percent increase.

Revenue was virtually steady at Ameristar in St. Charles.

Also good news for casinos was the fact that all 12 did better in November than they did in October.

“We’re encouraged by the results we’re beginning to see in Missouri,” said Jill Haynes, a spokeswoman for Isle of Capri, which is based in St. Louis and operates three Missouri casinos. “There are a lot of moving parts that impact gaming results. The economy is one of those.”



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