Meadows slots revenue declines in February

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Slots revenue at all 11 Pennsylvania casinos declined last month compared with February 2012, but the dropoff was precipitous at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino.


According to monthly statistics compiled by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, gross slots revenue for February at the North Strabane Township casino was $18,162,664, down from $21,110,946 for the same month of 2012.


The 13.97 percent decrease was the second greatest among the state’s casinos, ahead of only Presque Isle Downs and Casino. The Erie area venue experienced a 28.12 percent decline, from $13,917,505 to $10,003,663.


Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh had the smallest decrease, 3.55 percent ($25,344,620 to $24,444,402).


Statewide, slots play declined 9.2 percent, from a gross revenue of $215,687,738 in February 2012 to $195,945,210 last month, The six sites that have a casino and race track fared even worse in slots, dropping 14.3 percent.


Sean Sullivan, general manager of The Meadows, attributed at least part of the slots dropoff at his casino to a variety of factors – 2012 was a leap year; lousy weather, especially on weekends; large jackpots; and the Super Bowl.


“It doesn’t close the gap, but 29 February days vs. 28 is a little edge,” Sullivan said. He estimated that one more day this year could have yielded $800,000 in slots revenue.


While acknowledging there wasn’t a large snow accumulation this February, Sullivan said, “we had 12 days of measurable snowfall and days with black ice” that dissuaded customers.


“And the weather had a tendency to hit on weekends. Seventy percent of our business – industry-wide – is on weekends, from Friday at 3 p.m. to Sunday at 8 p.m. If it snows on those days, everybody is affected.”


Sullivan also mentioned the good fortune that some Meadows patrons experienced during the month.


“We were giving money away,” he said. “Our hold percentage was quite lower than last year. We had a lot of large jackpots, a lot of happy customers.”


Super Bowl Sunday, of course, played havoc with casinos everywhere Feb. 3. Large numbers of people watched the game at home, or at parties or restaurants, and many bet on that instead. But that is an annual phenomenon.


“Super Bowl Sunday was lackluster for us and our competitors,” Sullivan said.


The Meadows, owned by Cannery Casino Resorts of Las Vegas, does have a lot of casino competition in the tri-state – competition that has built up in recent years, and will continue to grow.


Rivers Casino and Wheeling Island (W.Va.) Hotel-Casino Racetrack are within about a half-hour drive. Hollywood Casino and Scioto Downs Casino, two hours west of Wheeling, opened in Columbus, Ohio, last year, as did Horseshoe Casino Cleveland.


Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Fayette County, plans to open its Lady Luck Casino this summer.


Sullivan is aware that this is a burgeoning industry, that competition is perpetually increasing and that The Meadows has to be proactive if it hopes to maintain an edge.


“With competition, you have to be on your game,” he said. “Guest services, cleanliness . . . the fundamentals of this business are pretty direct. You have to treat customers the way you want them to treat you.”


He said The Meadows and Rivers Casino “have a friendly competition every day. We consider ourselves the Steelers and Rivers the Ravens.”


The Columbus casinos, he added, are having more of a significant impact on Wheeling Island than The Meadows. “Columbus is absolutely hurting Wheeling.”


An Associated Press story this week reported that Wheeling Island anticipates losing $1 million this year on its table games, which are labor-intensive.


Sullivan said gaming officials in Pennsylvania and contiguous states should take precautions to avoid an oversaturation of casinos.


“But I believe the PGCB is being a careful steward. They’re very aware of what oversaturation can do. Southwestern Pennsylvania is in pretty good shape.”


Nemacolin, about an hour east of Washington, will be joining the equation in a few months.


In August, the state Supreme Court affirmed the PGCB’s selection of Nemacolin for a Category 3 resort gaming license.


In December, the resort began construction of a $50 million, 70,000-square-foot casino on the site of the former Wildside arcade.


The casino, which will offer 600 slot machines and 28 table games, is expected to open by mid-summer.


The casino will be operated by Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.


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