NEW ORLEANS—Louisiana's state-licensed casinos mirrored their counterparts in other states last month as money won from players continued a two-year slide.
The 13 riverboats, Harrah's downtown New Orleans casino and the four race track casinos took in $203.6 million in May, down 9.3 percent from May 2009 and 13.4 percent from May 2008 as tough economic times and more competition for the wagering dollar continued chopping the take.
The riverboats - many of which cater to Texas gamblers - won $137.7 million last month, down from $152.5 million in May 2009 and $161.7 million in May 2008. The New Orleans casino won $30.8 million, down from $34 million in May 2009 and $38.2 million in May 2008, while the track casinos took in $35.1 million, down from $38.1 million in May 2009 and $35.3 million in May 2008.
Other states have been mired in the same trend: Nevada's revenue in April, the latest month for which figures are available, was down 18.9 percent from April 2008. New Jersey casino revenue fell 29 percent from May 2008 to May 2010. Mississippi fared better in an April-to-April comparison, recording a 4.7 percent drop.
But casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast face a new challenge: the threat of tourist gamblers staying away from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. May figures for the state are expected to come out later this week.
The Memorial Day weekend, traditionally one of the casino business' biggest holidays, wasn't much help in Louisiana, boosting the take only a bit from $200.5 million in April 2010.
Casino analyst Cory Morowitz of Galloway, N.J.-based Morowitz Gaming Advisors LLC said the downturn in Louisiana is due to slow economic times - and any sort of major rebound is likely far off.
"It will be a long time before we see significant improvement," Morowitz said. "You'll have to see improvements in employment, consumer credit, discretionary income, government debt."
Morowitz said another unknown for Louisiana casinos is how long deepwater petroleum drilling will be stalled in the Gulf, a development that could be "disastrous to the local economy," further cutting travel and discretionary spending.
Among Louisiana's casino markets:
- Shreveport-Bossier City, home to five riverboats and the Louisiana Downs track casino, took in $64.3 million, down from $70.5 million in May 2009 and $76.3 million in April 2008. During that time, the market has faced increasing competition from an expanding array of casinos at Oklahoma tribal nations.
With current overall economic conditions, "When you get a market that gets additional competition, it just exacerbates the situation," said Morowitz.
- Lake Charles, another market aimed at Texas with three riverboats and the Delta Downs track casino, took in $54.8 million last month, down $61.2 million in May 2009, but up a bit from $60 million in May 2008. Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. recently scrapped plans for a second riverboat-hotel in that market.
- The New Orleans metro market, with two riverboats, the downtown casino and the Fair Grounds track casino, won $55 million last month, down from $59.9 million in May 2009 and $64.2 million in May 2008.
- The Baton Rouge market, with two riverboats catering mostly to the local market, won $16.5 million in May, down from $18.7 million in May 2009 and $19.8 million in May 2008.
- The Evangeline Downs track casino at Opelousas took in $8.5 million last month, compared with $9.6 million in May 2009 and $9.8 million in May 2008.
- The lone riverboat in the Morgan City area won $4.8 million last month, up slightly from $4.7 million in May 2009 and down from $5 million in May 2008.
The figures do not include the three Indian reservation casinos in Louisiana, which are not required to report their winnings to the public.