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Casinos' decline in slots revenue continues

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published February 16. 2013 4:00AM

Slot-machine revenues at the casinos again plummeted by double-digit percentages last month, dropping to levels not seen in more than a decade.

Foxwoods Resort Casino, including MGM Grand at Foxwoods, reported Friday that its slots "win" - the amount it kept from wagers after paying out prizes - totaled $40.7 million, a 12.1 percent decline over January 2012. Mohegan Sun's January win of $47.1 million was down 11.1 percent over the same month the previous year.

Both casinos had reported 12 percent declines in December.

Foxwoods has experienced double-digit declines in five consecutive months, while Mohegan Sun's win has plunged by double digits in three of the last five months.

"Obviously, January was tough," said Scott Butera, Foxwoods' president and chief executive officer. "Clearly, if you look around, a lot of the major gaming markets are experiencing the same thing. … With new taxes, gas prices that are high, a lot of unemployment, people are not spending."

The prevailing economic conditions tend to benefit so-called "convenience" gaming locations that cater to patrons who live close by at the expense of destination resorts like Connecticut's casinos, Butera said. "We have to give people more reasons to come" than slot machines, while also providing the "latest and greatest" in slot products, he said.

One convenience location, Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct racetrack in New York City, has come to dominate the Northeast slots market since its 2011 opening. Resorts World reported a January win of $59.1 million, up 16.7 percent over January 2012.

Neither Butera nor Bobby Soper, Mohegan Sun's president and CEO, believes the continuing decline in the Connecticut casinos' slots revenues suggests a permanent change in patrons' preferences.

"We're confident that when the economy improves, our revenues will come back," Soper said. "Will we ever get back to where we were five years ago? I think most people in the industry would say probably not."

In the meantime, Soper said, Mohegan Sun must continue to "constantly refresh" its mix of slot machines and sharpen its marketing, including the amount of free slots play it offers.

Foxwoods' January win of $40.7 million was the lowest of any month since December 1996, when it won $36.6 million - the last time its monthly win dipped below $40 million. In that month 16 years ago, long before MGM Grand existed, Foxwoods operated about 1,600 fewer slot machines than it did last month, when more than 6,200 machines were in place.

Mohegan Sun's $47.1 million win last month was its lowest since February 2001, when it kept $44.9 million. Back then, the Uncasville casino operated slightly more than 3,000 machines compared to the 5,550 it had in place last month.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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