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Louisiana casinos' revenue drops

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos took a big hit from the struggling economy in January, as winnings from gamblers decreased 14.6 percent from January 2009.

The state’s 13 riverboat casinos won $131.2 million last month, down from $153.2 million the previous January, state police reported Tuesday. Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.’s land casino in New Orleans saw winnings fall to $27 million from $31.3 million in January 2009.

The four racetrack casinos took in $31.5 million last month, a drop from $37.6 million the previous January.

The latest monthly total — $189.7 million — shows a sharp reversal from a year ago, when the casinos won $222.2 million in January 2009, an 11 percent gain over January 2008, even as other major gambling states were struggling with declining revenue. At that time, analysts said Louisiana was able to take advantage of regional and local markets with players close at hand — and the deepening recession had not hit the state full throttle yet.

But after year-to-year figures began dropping off by double digits later in the year, the effect of tight discretionary dollars and less travel began showing up in the Louisiana reports, putting the state in the same situation with other casino states.

For example, in neighboring Mississippi, casinos recorded an 11.3 percent fall in gambling revenue in the January-to January comparison. New Jersey casinos fell 8.5 percent.

In a report that fully showed the problems in Nevada, that state’s major casinos recorded a net loss — covering all forms of revenue — of $6.8 billion for the 2009 fiscal year, two years after recording a record net income of $2.7 billion, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. No such report is compiled for Louisiana.

As a result of the slower play, state casino tax collections for the first seven months of the current fiscal year are down 7.4 percent over the same time of the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Among Louisiana casino markets:

— Baton Rouge, considered to be largely a local market with two riverboats, recorded the largest January-to-January drop in gambling winnings: 25.6 percent. The boats took in $14.5 million last month, $5 million less than in January 2009.

— The Shreveport-Bossier City market, with five riverboats and the Louisiana Downs casino, posted a 13 percent fall, winning $61.3 million last month, down from $70.4 million in January 2009. That market also is facing increasing competition for Texas gamblers from Indian nation casinos in Oklahoma.

— The Lake Charles market, with three riverboats and the Delta Downs track casino, saw a 12.4 percent falloff, with $52.4 million in winnings last month, down from $58.9 million in January 2009.

— The New Orleans market, which has two riverboats and the Fair Grounds casino in addition to the land casino, saw gambling winnings fall 15.1 percent from $58.8 million in January 2009 to $49.7 million last month.

— The one-boat market of Morgan City sustained a 20 percent fall from $5.3 million in gambling winnings in January 2009 to $4.2 million last month.

— The Evangeline Downs track casino at Opelousas won $7.7 million last month, a 16.3 percent drop from $9.2 million in January 2009.

In December 2009, Louisiana casinos won $192.4 million.

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


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