In what has been termed “new normal” by gaming officials and observers, all five Northwest Indiana casinos saw a combined 9.2 percent decline in January revenues compared with one year ago, according to revenue figures released Friday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.
“These are scary numbers,” said Ed Feigenbaum, the publisher of Indianapolis-based Indiana Gaming Insight newsletter.
Ameristar in East Chicago saw less than a 1 percent drop, the smallest year-over-year decline in January. Horseshoe Casino in Hammond experienced the most significant dip, with 14.8 percent less revenue for January compared to the same month in 2012.
“You have to go back to June 2008 to find numbers like this for what is Northwest Indiana’s best-performing boat,” Feigbenbaum said.
Gary’s Majestic Star II had more than a 9 percent drop in January revenues, while Michigan City’s Blue Chip casino was down more than 6 percent and Majestic Star I in Gary dipped 5 percent.
The revenue drop is even more dramatic when revenue figures from December 2012 are compared to the first month of 2013.
In December, the five casinos brought in nearly $92 million compared with $78.9 million last month, a 14.7 percent decline.
Feigenbaum said casino patrons also seem to be spending less money, “which is consistent with macroeconomics. People are shopping, but spending less.”
The casinos also saw a significant drop in the number of people visiting the gambling venues, which seemed to contribute to the revenue declines, said Erin Chamberlin, vice president and assistant general manager of Horseshoe Casino Hammond.
The turnstile count for January 2013 was 835,047 at the five Northwest Indiana casino, compared with 944,923 for the same month last year, an 11.6 percent decline.
“This is a distressing sign in overall volume. There are more places people can go and satiate (their gaming) appetite,” she said. “These are people who love to gamble. There are not 20 million new gamers out there.”
Two years ago, casinos in Northwest Indiana were a $2.6 billion business, Chamberlin said. “Now it’s a $2.2 billion market.”
Another notable statistic in the January numbers is a 4.3 percent decline in Horseshoe’s blackjack revenues.
“We had a really big hit with high-level VIP players in January,” Chamberlin said. “We made a few millionaires last month.”
Chamberlin said there are no plans to downsize the casino’s offerings or staff in the face of this new normal.
“It is important that we not impact our customer service,” she said. “We are in this game for the long-term.”