Big bounce in Louisiana; Poker and booze go better together

Compared with a flood-plagued March of 2015, business was booming  at Louisiana casinos, up 10%, especially Baton Rouge (+20.5%), although New Orleans was flat. JP Morgan analyst Joseph Greff is predicting less salubrious results in April, blaming the Easter Bunny, among other factors. Last month saw very fewer poor performers, led by Harrah’s New Orleans ($22 million, -9%), Boyd Gaming‘s Evangeline Downs ($7 million, -6%) and Diamond Jack’s in Shreveport/Bossier City ($4 million, -9.5%). Boyd also had a poor month at Amelia Belle ($4 million, -6%) and good ones at Treasure Chest ($10 million, +10%) and Sam’s Town Shreveport ($7.5 million, +8.5%). Boyd’s breakout performer was Delta Downs, up 26% to $17 million. Caesars Entertainment also had a very, very good March at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, up 29.5% to $4 million.

Lake Charles dominated the Pelican State both in total gross ($80 million on the nose) and percentage improvement. Golden Nugget shot up 23.5% to $25 million while Pinnacle Entertainment‘s L’Auberge du Lac grossed $27 million (up 9%). Even Isle of Capri got in on the action, improving 5% to $11 million. Dominant players upstate were Horseshoe Bossier City ($18 million, +12%), Eldorado Shreveport ($13 million, +5.5%) and Margaritaville ($13 million, +12%).

In New Orleans, only Harrah’s did poorly. Churchill DownsFair Grounds racino grossed $4.5 million (+8%) and Boomtown New Orleans ($11 million) was up 10.5%. The biggest market improvement — 20.5% — was in Baton Rouge. There, L’Auberge Baton Rouge did $17 million (+26%), Tropicana Entertainment‘s Belle of Baton Rouge pulled in $6 million (+8.5%) and GLPI‘s Casino Rouge managed an 18% improvement to $7 million. Now we’ll sit back and wait to see if the Easter Bunny really stole any April business.

* “It’s going to end up as the Trump Taj Mahal of Connecticut. It’s going to be filing for bankruptcy in 30 days.” So said hired gun Clyde Barrow, testifying on behalf of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun. The latter two released a Barrow-penned report that concluded not only would a casino in Bridgeport fail to replace lost slot revenue from the two existing casinos, it would be poleaxed by competition from the New York City area. Heck, who’s going to go to Bridgeport if you can play at Resorts World New York? MGM Resorts International‘s counsel, Uri Clinton had rather a weak counter-argument: Saturation is coming so cash in now. Or, as he said, “But if that’s true, I think its incumbent on this body to look for a way to maximize your next — maybe your final — but your next casino.”

Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine one MGM casino, no matter how nice, generating enough scratch to surpass or even equal the $267 million Hartford currently collects from the Pequots and Mohegans. Like S&G, state Rep. Christopher Davis (R) is skeptical about MGM’s sudden solicitude for Bridgeport. I’m just pointing out to the public and to members of this committee that under no circumstances is there a requirement for MGM to actually move forward with any proposal … in fact, you guys might be doing this for other alternative motives to slow down the tribes from being able to build their casino rather than … being able to build another casino in southwestern Connecticut,” he said.

Clinton denied there was any stalling at work but state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D), a tribal ally, urged his fellow lawmakers to get on with it. “MGM is building and … the only winner will be MGM and the state of Massachusetts.”

* Who knew the poker gets better the drunker you are? That’s the contention of a report from Massachusetts, where the Lege is pondering a bill that would permit casinos to extend alcohol sales from a 2 a.m. cutoff to 4 a.m. The only catch is that you have to be “actively engaged” in gambling. Since you’re paying for the privilege of imbibing, what difference does it make whether you’re playing or not?

* A reported 3,400 Chinese tourists refused to disembark at Jeju Island to protest South Korean missile tests. Who knew that gamblers had such willpower, passing up the chance to play in order to make a political statement?

* Speaking of South Korea, that country’s DoubleU Games is in the news. International Game Technology has reversed field on its controversial purchase of Double Down Interactive and sold it to DoubleU for $825 million. Considering that IGT paid $500 million for Double Down back in the day, selling it at such a hefty markup suggests astute leadership.

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