Missouri's casino revenue dips slightly in May

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | 6:30 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — Revenue dipped 1.1 percent at Missouri's casinos in May and the number of people gambling there increased as the state kept managing to avoid the recent double-digit declines in places such as Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Statewide, the casinos had revenue of $151.9 million in May compared with $153.5 million a year ago.

The numbers included a 17 percent rise in revenue at St. Louis' newest casino, Lumiere Place, compared to the same month a year earlier. That helped offset declines at the city's other three casinos, including a 45 percent drop at the President. Overall casino revenue in St. Louis fell 0.7 percent for the month.

Both Lumiere Place and the President are owned by Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment, which plans to open a new casino in the city next year. The President has seen its revenue plummet since Lumiere Place opened in December 2007, as its sister casino has taken a greater chunk of market share.

"Lumiere is probably the reason why statewide, year-to-date, we're up," said Gene McNary, head of the Missouri Gaming Commission. "But Lumiere has not taken away from the other St. Louis casinos to the extent that we had projected."

The Missouri results contrast with recent figures from Atlantic City, where casinos saw a 15.4 percent drop in revenue in May, and Nevada, where they had a 14.1 percent drop in April — the latest report available.

McNary said Missouri's gambling industry is doing well compared to other states with commercial casinos because of the regional nature of its gambling facilities and demographic factors such as senior citizens who gamble. He also cited benefits from the repeal of the state's unique $500 loss limit after the November general election.

Lumiere has become the third highest-grossing casino in St. Louis, behind Harrah's Maryland Heights and Ameristar's St. Charles operation. Harrah's revenues dropped 2 percent from a year ago and Ameristar's fell 5 percent, putting the two casinos within $2,000 of each other in revenues for the month.

Lumiere Place General Manager Todd George said that while the two bigger St. Louis casinos draw heavily from the suburbs, his downtown casino is focusing more on gamblers who come into the city for sporting events and conventions.

"I think things are going slightly according to plan, but I don't think anyone could have predicted this economy and had looked for the industry to grow more," George said. "We're very pleased with market share. I just wish it was a bigger market."

In the Kansas City market, revenues at the four casinos dropped 2 percent overall even as both the Argosy and Isle of Capri did better. Ameristar, the city's biggest casino, had a 7.4 percent decline while Harrah's fell 4 percent.

Argosy edged past Harrah's as Kansas City's second-highest grossing casino in May on the strength of its 5 percent gain. The Isle of Capri's revenue rose 5 percent and the number of patrons increased 6.5 percent despite a bridge replacement project nearby that has made it harder to get to the casino.

Besides Lumiere, another bright spot in the May report was one of the state's smaller casinos. Isle of Capri's Caruthersville casino, which was dubbed Lady Luck in June 2008, saw revenues rise 13 percent from a year earlier and had a 21 percent spike in the number of patrons. Isle of Capri bought the former Casino Aztar in mid-2007.

"It is the first complete renovation of one of our existing properties to the Lady Luck brand," said Virginia McDowell, president and chief operating officer for St. Louis-based Isle of Capri. "We believe we had a tremendous opportunity there."


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