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Winnings at Louisiana casinos hold steady

ACROSS LOUISIANA — Winnings from gamblers at Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos last month were virtually unchanged from April 2009 as tough economic times continued to put a pinch on players’ wallets.

In April, the 13 riverboat casinos, Harrah’s downtown New Orleans casino and the four casinos at horse racing tracks won $200.5 million, down 1 percent from $202.6 million in April 2009, state police reported yesterday. The riverboats won $135.7 million, Harrah’s took in $32 million and the track casinos won $32.8 million.

The latest tally was down 2.9 percent from the $206.5 million lost by players in March, which has one more day in the month.

There are mixed signals from casino states about how strong the business may be rebounding from the lowest point of the economic meltdown. After posting double-digit losses in monthly comparisons in 2009, New Jersey reported April revenue from Atlantic City casinos was down only 0.7 percent from April 2009, while Nevada said its casino winnings in a March-to-March comparison — the latest available — fell only 0.6 percent.

But in neighboring Mississippi, which is dealing with increased competition from tribal casinos in Florida, the March-to-March comparison was down 8.6 percent.

Earlier this month, the American Gaming Association, in reporting a national state-licensed revenue decline of 5.5 percent for 2009, said its studies showed that commercial casino visitors equaled more than a quarter of the United States population last year, but they spent less and risked less while they were there.

The AGA said the casino industry would remain in a pinch until people had more discretionary income.

Among Louisiana’s casino markets in April:

— The Shreveport-Bossier City area, with five riverboats and the Louisiana Downs casino, won $64 million last month, down slightly from $64.8 million in April 2009. That market has faced increasing competition for Texas gamblers from tribal nation casinos in Oklahoma.

— The Texas-sensitive Lake Charles market, with three riverboats and the Delta Downs track casino, took in $52.1 million last month, down a bit from $52.9 million in April 2009. Last month, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. scrapped its plans for a second riverboat-hotel in that market and returned the gambling license to the state.

— The New Orleans market, with Harrah’s, two riverboats and the Fair Grounds track casino, won $55.4 million last month, up slightly from $54 million in April 2009.

— At the two riverboats in Baton Rouge, players lost $16.3 million in April, down from $17.9 million in April 2009. Even though Pinnacle abandoned its expansion plans in Lake Charles, the Las Vegas-based company is continuing with plans for a third floating casino in Baton Rouge.

— The lone riverboat in the Morgan City area took in $4.4 million last month, unchanged from April 2009.

— The Evangeline Downs track casino at Opelousas won $8.2 million in April, down from $8.6 million in April 2009.

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

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