Northwest Indiana's casinos eked out a small overall revenue gain in September, the last month in which they will not face competition from video gaming machines at Illinois bars, fraternal organizations and truck stops.
On Tuesday, video gaming went live at 65 Illinois establishments. In all 341 licenses have been approved and more than 2,200 other applications are being processed.
"It's insidious and potentially problematic," said Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Gaming Insight.
But in the short run it may not matter all that much for casinos, he said. That's because the Illinois video gaming machines will serve mainly as casual side attractions when people go to grab a drink or meal. But they do have the potential to shrink people's pocketbooks, something that could figure into decisions on whether or not to hit the casino, Feigenbaum said.
In total, September was another weak month for casinos statewide, with revenues down despite an extra Saturday on the calendar this year, Feigenbaum said.
Dan Nita, general manager at Horseshoe Casino, in Hammond, said casinos will have to wait and see if the video gambling in bars has any effect on the gaming market in general. In other states such as North Carolina and Louisiana, which already have video gaming, it has basically been a "non-entity," Nita said.
"While guests can know and trust that we are an upstanding corporate citizen ... can someone really trust to some random bar that has four of these in some back room?" he asked.
Of late, Northwest Indiana casinos are outperforming the rest of the state, with the small September gain following on a larger gain of 5.5 percent in August, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission's monthly revenue reports.
Blue Chip Casino, in Michigan City, led all Northwest Indiana boats with the largest percentage increase of 3.1 percent followed by a 2.6 percent bump at Ameristar Casino, in East Chicago.
In all, the five boats took in $89.1 million in September, as compared to $88.7 million in September 2011.
Horseshoe Casino took in $39.1 million in September, a 1.2 percent decline from Sept. 2011 revenues of $39.6 million.
The two Majestic Star boats in Gary took in a combined $15.7 million, a 0.5 percent decline from September 2011 revenues of $15.8 million.