The narrative for the last month of the year does not vary much from the other eleven months. The states that added casinos and VLTs in 2017 generated more revenue and accounted for the majority of the revenue growth for the month. Also part of the year's narrative: the neighboring states impacted by that expansion are still trying to digest the increase in competition. The remaining states have gone up and down according to local conditions, which include the weather, win percentage, and other significant events.
New York, Maryland, Kansas, and Illinois account for the majority of the revenue increases for the year, although
Maryland, with a 5.7 percent increase in revenues in December, was only partially in the "expansion" category: MGM National Harbor opened on December 8
th in 2016, and therefore only one week of the December 2017 revenues can be considered as due to a capacity increase. MGM was up 34.9 percent for the month to $56.5 million, but that increase was offset by decreases in Maryland Live and the Horseshoe Baltimore; together they generated $66.1 million, down approximately 10 percent from 2016. Ocean Downs was down 9 percent, Hollywood Perryville fell 5.5 percent, and Rocky Gap was up 6.8 percent.
New York added three casinos in 2017, with a fourth set to open in February 2018. The added casinos account for the majority of the 20.7 percent increase in revenue in the state; they generated a combined win of $28.3 million in December. But New York VLTs also reported an increase of 2.3 percent, to $160.5 million.
Illinois continues to benefit from the expansion of its VLTs; in December there were 3,431 more units than the year before. The total of 28,271 VLTs generated $115.5 million in December, an increase of 18.3 percent. Illinois casinos also did well in December, reporting an increase of 4.2 percent to $116.6 million for the month.
Kansas was up 17.4 percent, or $5.3 million. But not all of the increase can be attributed to the new Kansas Crossing Casino, which only reported $2.6 million in December. Kansas Crossing opened at the end of March in 2017, so Kansas still has three months of revenue impacted by an additional casino. After that, like Maryland, the year-over-year comparisons will be apples to apples, as they say.
South Dakota had an additional 59 VLTs in December, for a total of 9,137 units, which generated $18.5 million, an increase of 6.3 percent. The casinos in the state were also up, but only slightly, 0.28 percent to $7.2 million.
The casinos in
Atlantic City reported a decline of 1.8 percent in December, to $186.2 million. Combined with the $20.8 million from online gaming, the overall total only fell 0.48 percent. For all of 2017, the combined online and bricks and mortar revenue was $2.66 billion, up 2.2 percent from 2016. The real story behind that increase was online gaming, which recorded an increase of 25 percent to $245 million for the year.
Nevada did what Nevada usually does - produce varying results in different location and for different type of gambling, because of different conditions and dynamics. In total, Nevada gaming revenue was $960 million in December, up less than 1 percent. Downtown Vegas and North Las Vegas were both up by double-digits. The Las Vegas Strip was down 3.2 percent. It may be that the Strip is still suffering from the mass shooting in October, since both convention attendees and individual visitor numbers were down 1.7 percent. Hotel occupancy fell 0.5 percent, with room rates being up in the Downtown area and on the Strip.
In Nevada, the eastern counties were up as much as 25 percent
. Carson City and Reno were up also up about 10 percent. Statewide, individual game results were also mixed, with sports being up dramatically to $34.5 million. Baccarat dropped 23.5 percent in December; for the year the total baccarat win of $1.15 billion was the lowest since 2009. At the same time, the slot win for the month rose 3.6 percent to $626.7 million.
For 2017, Nevada recorded $11.573 billion in revenues, an increase of 2.79 percent. There never is a simple explanation to Nevada's results, but fewer people visiting Las Vegas and a big drop in baccarat revenue go a long way toward explaining Nevada's December.
Mississippi, the ongoing narrative is coastal versus river county casinos. Coastal casinos were up 7 percent to $99 million in December, while those in the river counties reported a decline of 1.4 percent to $77 million. For the year, the state had $2.08 billion in revenues, down 2 percent. The coastal casinos were up 1.1 percent to $1.19 billion and the river casinos recorded $885 million in win, down 5 percent from the previous year.
Given the unfavorable calendar in December, the positive results from
Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are a bit enigmatic. Certainly, the booming national economy offers one possible reason, as does the relatively mild weather in many parts of the country.
With 2017 just ended, it is tempting to project onto 2018 some of the lessons learned from the past year. But the only clear conclusion which I can draw from 2017 is about expansion: to get gaming revenue numbers to go up, find a way to expand the options for players and potential players.
But expansion has a downside. Take
Rhode Island, for example. By itself, Rhode Island is too small to impact national figures or trends, but it can shed some light on a trend that will only increase over time. The state of Rhode Island is not an island in either a geographical or a business sense, so the increasing competition in the region has steadily taken away revenue from the state. In December, Rhode Island gaming revenue was down 3.4 percent; more tellingly, 35 slot machines/VLTs were taken off the floor. That numbers isn't large but it illustrates a trend: reducing the number of playable units is one way that casinos reduce their expenses in the face of falling revenues. You can see the trend in Northern Nevada, in the River Counties of Mississippi, and in Atlantic City, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia. With time, it's going to appear in Pennsylvania and Maryland.