New Jersey and
Atlantic City continued to show positive results in November, with 2017 being the best year the city has had in ten years. The upward trend has been driven by the double-digit growth of online gaming. In November, Internet gaming was up 20 percent to $20.6 million; casino revenue was up 4.6 percent to $206.4 million. The casino growth is particularly impressive because two of the properties, Bally and Harrah's, were down significantly. The remaining five casinos had a very strong month, with Resorts up 18.6 percent and Golden Nugget up 15.2 percent. Borgata, which has a 30 percent market share in the city, was up 5.7 percent to $64 million; its change is extremely important to the city's figures as a whole.
Although the economy contributed to gaming's growth in November, the old story-line - expansion - was still relevant. The first category of expanded capacity has been with casinos, with Maryland, New York, and Kansas having more casinos in November 2017 than in 2016. In Maryland and New York the new casinos drove very large increases in revenue in November, as they have all year.
Maryland's casino revenue was up 41.9 percent as a result of $50.6 million generated by MGM National Harbor. Once again Maryland Live and Horseshoe Baltimore paid the price, with declining revenues: Maryland Live was down 13.5 percent to $43 million, and the Horseshoe was down 20 percent to $22.7 million. The total drop for the five previously-existing casinos was 13.1 percent. MGM opened in December 2016, so beginning in January 2018 the year-over-year comparisons will be even more interesting.
New York's combined casino and VLT revenue was up 21.1 percent, it has three new casinos, which together generated $29 million in gaming win. The casinos accounted for the majority of the increase, however, VLTs were up 2.4 percent to $159 million. There were 19,094 units in New York in November, up from 18,144 a year earlier.
Casino revenue in
Kansas increased 12 percent, the lion's share of that coming from Kansas Crossing. That's the state's new casino, reporting $2.4 million in gaming win for the month.
The second category of expanded capacity in 2017 has been VLTs, with Illinois and South Dakota the two states with increases. For 2017, their VLTs have reported an increase in overall revenue as a result of those added units.
The numbers in
South Dakota are very small. Because of the state's remote location and unique casino environment it is insignificant in the national picture.
Illinois, on the other hand, is very significant in the national narrative. It is significant because other states are looking at it as a model for potential expansion and because the numbers themselves are large. The number of VLTs in Illinois grew by 12.3 percent to 27,787 in November, generating $112.4 million in win, an increase of 18 percent compared to a year earlier. November was also the first month that the revenue generated by the VLTs exceeded casino revenue in Illinois; the casinos had $108.6 million in November, a decrease of 2.3 percent.
Ohio both the racinos and the casinos reported increases. The four casinos were up 6.9 percent to $66.4 million, lead by Jacks Cleveland with $16.9 million. Ohio's seven racinos had $75.9 million in win, up 8.9 percent. Two racinos outperformed Jacks: Hard Rock with $18.7 million and Hollywood Columbus with $17.5 million.
Mississippi the narrative continues to be one of two separate storylines. The weather was better in November and the Coastal casinos reported an 8 percent increase to $95.1 million. The river county casinos continue to experience competition-related decreases; in November they were down 1.1 percent to $66.7 million.
Louisiana was one of the states with less revenue for the month. Its riverboat casinos were still feeling the impact of the hurricane season, were down 2.2 percent in November. Land-based Harrah's New Orleans was up 7.1 percent. VLTs in truck stops and at the race track had essentially the same revenue as last year.
Rhode Island, another of states with declining results (down 2.1 percent), is much like an endangered species on an island. The state's gaming industry is so small that external competition is particularly harmful and threatening in the long-term. With the industry growing nationwide, even a 2.1 percent decrease in the state is significant, an indication of an uncertain future.
The third state with less revenue in November was
Nevada. As is always the case, the explanation can be found on the Strip, in the casino pits. Baccarat was down 25 percent to $63.2 million and blackjack was down 14.5 percent, a drop of $10.7 million. In addition to the decline in table games, sports was down almost 75 percent, a drop of $7.9 million. In a characteristic statement, Michael Lawton of the state Control Board said, "If you factor out the Strip, the state would have been up." The decline on the Strip was not just in the games, however. Visitations were down by 3.7 percent, year-to-date; 600,000 fewer people visited Las Vegas in 2017, through November, compared to 2016.
The rest of Southern Nevada had a much better month: downtown Vegas was up 6.8 percent, North Vegas 2.5 percent, Laughlin 4.9 percent, and Boulder Strip 0.08 percent. In Northern Nevada, Reno dropped by a 0.08 percent and Sparks was flat. North Lake Tahoe revenue grew by 18.9 percent; in the rest of Washoe County, revenue was up 21.48 percent. South Lake Tahoe win fell 2.92 percent, in Elko County it was up 11.84 percent, and Carson Valley area revenue increased 10.83 percent.
In the other categories,
Macau continues to grow after the steep decline caused by the crackdown on corruption by China that started in 2015.
A side story worth mentioning involves
racing: racing handle for November was up 6.39 percent to $890.8 million. The interesting aspect is the reason cited by
Blood-Horse News for the increase - that it was due to a change in federal law that raised the minimum level for reporting and withholding on gaming wins. That's a familiar argument, one used by many in the casino industry over the years when trying to get the IRS to be more generous in its reporting and withholding requirements. In a different form, it is an argument we can expect to hear more in 2018 as casinos seek lower taxation in highly competitive jurisdictions.