PA Slots Static Overall, But Casino Trends Vary

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While much of the attention devoted to Pennsylvania casino revenue these days focuses on the new forms of gambling — most notably sports betting and iGaming — those will never change the importance of slot machines within the casinos.

The 24,869 slot machines in Pennsylvania generated $2.38 billion in gross terminal revenue at the 12 casinos in 2018-19, or more than 72% of their total gambling revenue. That percentage will drop some this year with the growth of other new gaming, but not enough to change the machines’ dominance in determining the casinos’ bottom lines.

While the release last week of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s annual report for 2018-19 only regurgitated in glossier fashion revenue numbers that had previously been released, it provided an excuse to look at some of the long-term trends with slots revenue in the state at each casino.

And when we combined those with short-term trends comparing just this September to September 2018, things became even more interesting.

The shifts favor Rivers, Valley Forge, Lady Luck

Pennsylvania is a state where slots revenue has been relatively static for the past eight years. Each year since 2010-11, when overall gross terminal revenue amounted to $2.35 billion from 26,390 machines at 10 casinos (the two smaller resort casinos had not yet opened), that figure has gone up or down but in no marked fashion. Five years ago, revenue totaled $2.32 billion at the 12 casinos.

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And early in the new fiscal year, revenue went up in August compared to a year ago but dropped in July and September.

All kinds of things can factor into changes year to year: the state of the economy, individual renovation projects at casinos, weather, changing competitive factors from other states, adjustments in the number of slot machines, and more.

But what’s apparent from comparisons with both a year ago and five years ago is the Rivers Casino, Valley Forge Casino Resort, and Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin have the most to feel positively about from slots trends.

Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Presque Isle Downs & Casino, Meadows Racetrack & Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Penn National have seen slides both short-term and long-term.

Before providing the trend numbers, here’s how everyone stacked up in 2018-19 slots revenue, with Parx retaining the No. 1 position it has held since opening:

  1. Parx, $416.9 mm
  2. Wind Creek Bethlehem, $295.7 mm
  3. Rivers, $291.1 mm
  4. Meadows, $212 mm
  5. Hollywood, $205.7 mm
  6. Harrah’s, $196.2 mm
  7. Mohegan Sun, $194.5 mm
  8. SugarHouse, $182.6 mm
  9. Mount Airy, $145.5 mm
  10. Presque Isle, $114.9 mm
  11. Valley Forge, $96.3 mm
  12. Lady Luck, $27.5 mm

Total: $2.38 billion

Since 2013-14, seven went up, five went down

The rankings look far different, however, in measuring the net change in the five years since 2013-14. In a period when overall state slots revenue rose 2.6%, seven casinos increased their slots play and five saw it drop.

Valley Forge’s vast improvement could be attributed directly to changes in state law that enabled it both to increase its number of slot machines and allow access to the casino without payment of any resort fees.

Here is the net difference between slots revenue from 2013-14 to 2018-19:

  1. Valley Forge +40.4%
  2. Lady Luck +18%
  3. Parx +17.5%
  4. Wind Creek +5.5%
  5. Rivers +5.1%
  6. SugarHouse +3.9%
  7. Mount Airy +3.3%
  8. Meadows -4%
  9. Hollywood -5.1%
  10. Presque Isle -7%
  11. Harrah’s -10.4%
  12. Mohegan Sun -11.2%

Total: +2.6%

September was a downhill slide for most slots

Meanwhile, the rankings are different once more when comparing this September with September 2018 to try to capture the most recent trend. It is a period when only three casinos did better than a year ago.

Each casino may have specific changes taking place to influence the numbers (Lady Luck, for instance, benefited from finally shedding its resort fee requirement), or they may be part of long-term trends, but here’s the rankings based on net September-to-September difference:

  1. Valley Forge +14.2%
  2. Lady Luck +8.8%
  3. Rivers +6.5%
  4. Parx (no change)
  5. Presque Isle -3.5%
  6. Hollywood -4.6%
  7. Mohegan Sun -4.9%
  8. Wind Creek -6.1%
  9. Mount Airy -6.7%
  10. Harrah’s -8.7%
  11. SugarHouse -9.8%
  12. Meadows -19.3%

Total: -4%

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press.

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