Illinois: How much worse can it get?

OK, the 9% dropoff in Illinois gambling dollars last month looks worse than it is because it mainly reflects the flood-enforced closure of Harrah’s Metropolis (left, -77%). All other casinos were down an aggregate 3%, and it didn’t much matter whether one was at the northeastern or southwestern end of the Land of Lincoln. The rest of the narrative is a familiar one: Jumer’s Casino Rock Island was up 5%, Harrah’s Joliet ($19 million, -14%) continues to lose business to Empress Joliet ($13 million, +8%), and were it not for Metropolis‘ adversity, Penn National Gaming‘s Alton Belle would still occupy the bottom rung of the ladder ($6.5 million, -5.5%), a sad comedown from its days as an Argosy-branded riverboat. It has the worst underperformance in terms of number gaming positions vs. percentage of market share statewide, while MGM Resorts International‘s Grand Victoria riverboat is the greatest overachiever. Does this look like a state that needs more casinos and racinos to you?

True, the monthly decline in Indiana (5%) looks worse than Illinois’ … but you’re talking about a $236 million market in the Hoosier State against a pathetically emaciated $110 million one immediately to the west. The anomalies were interesting ones. Except for Casino Aztar ($11 million, +8%), all the southern Indiana riverboats posted revenue declines, with Pinnacle Entertainment‘s Belterra resort ($11 million, -14%) taking the worst hit. The only other gainers in the state were nothing-left-to-lose French Lick ($7.5 million, +3%) and Cordish Gaming‘s racino, Indiana Live ($21 million, +2%).

Up north, Caesars Entertainment‘s Horseshoe Hammond ($46 million, -9%) crushes all competitors even in a bad month, with Ameristar Casinos‘ traffic-challenged Resorts East Chicago ($20 million, -7%) even remotely in the picture and outperforming everybody not named “Horseshoe.” New tribal competitors in Michigan are laying siege to Boyd Gaming‘s Blue Chip riverboat, down 5% last month. Except for an aberrantly strong March ($252 million), Indiana’s take was par for the 2011 course and somewhat above average ($233 million) for 2010. Despite the preponderant number of slots and other positions (4,004) at Penn National‘s Lawrenceburg monster, it has to be acknowledged that Horseshoe Southern Indiana (pictured, $24 million from 2,446 positions) and Indiana Live ($21 million from 1,996) are hanging in there pretty impressively, even with Penn raking $36 million off the board.

Congratulations to Bally. The slot-maker just inked an 800-machine pact with Italian operator Lottomatica. This would bring Bally Technologies‘ inventory in the land of Dante and Verdi to 5,400 VLTs. Joseph Greff of J.P. Morgan estimates this will add $20 million in pre-tax profit while Roth Capital MarketsTodd Eilers says it will bring Bally’s Italian market share to 10%. As usual when confronted with good news, Wall Street blew cold on the stock, which lost 42 cents per share in yesterday’s trading.

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