Gamblers at the Hollywood Casino Perryville lost $7.5 million in November, a drop of more than $4 million from the October, the first full month the casino was open.
Stephen Martino, director of the Maryland State Lottery, said the drop in revenue was expected, as casinos typically show strong openings only to see attendance drop somewhat over time.
“We knew the numbers would moderate from the initial strong opening,” he said. “There’s a lot of media coverage for the opening of a casino, and we know that gamblers like to go and check out the new facility, what type of games it has and what has to offer, so we knew there’d be some moderation.”
Martino also said that November and December are typically weak months for the gambling industry. He added that while November’s daily per machine average dropped to less than $168.64 per from $246 per machine per day in October, the overall average is still above the agency’s projection of $210 per machine per day.
“November and December are some of the slowest times in the casino industry, since casinos get most of their revenues from people’s discretionary entertainment dollars,” he said. “So there are fewer of those [going to casinos] while people are getting ready for the holidays. It’s hard for a casino to compete with Santa Claus.”
Martino said he would wait until January and February to see any kind of uptick in casino revenue as a result.
But Michael Hicks, director of Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said that it’s true that casinos often see a “burst of activity” when they open before settling down to see its typical earnings, but such a swift drop in revenues could be cause for concern.
“November is a tough month to read with the holidays, but that’s also a month with a lot more leisure days in it, so it’ll be spring time or summer time before you get a good sense [of what Hollywood Casino Perryville’s revenues will be like],” he said. “I don’t think that shortfall is unusual, but $160 [per machine] a day over November should be a bit worrisome.”
Hicks added that typically it takes several months for a new casino’s attendance to drop off.
“Usually there’s a big surge at the beginning,” he said. “The bloom doesn’t fall off the flower for several months. I don’t know what stake the holidays played, but it’s certainly an area of concern.”
Although the opening of new casinos in an area can hurt another’s earnings, Hicks said he did not think Ocean Downs, a harness racing track in Berlin scheduled to open its casino this month, would put an additional dent in Hollywood Perryville’s revenues.
“It’s probably not a huge competitor with [Ocean Downs],” he said. “They are different venues that attract a different group of people.”
Of the $7.5 million, the state’s education trust fund received $2.5 million while the horse industry got just over $530,000 for racing purses and almost $190,000 for track improvements. Local governments received about $417,000, small, minority and women-owned businesses got almost $114,000 and the casino, owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., kept $2.5 million.
Martino said the Maryland Lottery would continue working to ensure that the new casino attracts visitors and remains relevant in the casino industry.
“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve done up to this point,” he said. “We will ensure that our responsibilities under the law are carried out, that the machines on the floor are attractive to players, and that the casino is a safe and fair environment for people.”
But Hicks said that if the revenues are continually disappointing, there may be little the casino and the state lottery agency can do.
“Sadly, the things they can do are very much out of their hands,” he said. “With one-armed bandits, location makes the biggest effect, so if it’s in a good location and brand new, there’s not much to do to get people through the door if they’re not already turning out in large numbers. Marketing helps, but I would think because of its opening, it’s got all the marketing in the world going right now.”