Baton Rouge’s casino market grew by $10.3 million, or 69 percent, to a total of $25.2 million in September with the opening of the L’Auberge Casino & Hotel, which raked in more than its two competitors combined.
Last month’s $25.2 million total compares with $14.8 million generated a year ago by the capital city’s two other casino boats, the Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino. Each saw their winnings drop by about 20 percent last month compared with September 2011, a report presented Thursday to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board shows.
L’Auberge’s winnings totaled $13.3 million in its first month of operation. Hollywood took in $7.3 million, down $1.8 million from last year. Belle of Baton Rouge took in $4.6 million, down $1.2 million from last year.
Hollywood Casino General Manager Jim Rigot said L’Auberge also took $5 million or so from Harrah’s New Orleans Casino; and probably $5 million from casinos on Mississippi’s coast, although the Mississippi figures are not yet available.
“Although it’s nice to see growth in the market … it’s not nice to see they grew it at our expense,” Rigot said.
No business wants to take a 20 percent hit on sales, he added.
Officials at the Belle and Harrah’s could not be reached for comment Thursday.
L’Auberge had 167,281 visitors last month, compared with Hollywood’s 76,978 and Belle’s 71,291. Hollywood had 15,669 fewer visitors last month than a year earlier, a 17 percent decline. The Belle had 396 more visitors, a 0.5 percent gain from last year.
Rigot said the Baton Rouge market’s 69 percent revenue growth will probably fall to 60 percent in October and then 50 percent in November. Then the $64,000 question becomes: Where does the market settle?
What percentage of the people who usually gamble at Harrah’s, the Mississippi coast casinos or the other Baton Rouge casino boats find L’Auberge so compelling they make it their home casino, Rigot asked.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, casino revenue in the Baton Rouge area jumped 37 percent, Rigot said. But that took everybody migrating from the coast to Baton Rouge, and revenue has been falling each year since then.
“So I suspect the market will probably settle in at 30 percent to 40 percent growth,” Rigot said.
A 30 percent increase would lift the Baton Rouge market’s annual revenue to around $245 million to $250 million, Rigot said. That isn’t enough money to service three boats, but it will probably take years before the market completes its shakeout, he said.
Economist Loren Scott reported the same thing in a 2006 report commissioned by the Belle and Hollywood.
However, the parent company of L’Auberge, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., is confident the new casino can be a regional draw.
Last week, Pinnacle President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Sanfilippo said L’Auberge is in the early stages of a marketing push to tell everyone in the region what the facility offers.
It’s critical that L’Auberge provides first-time visitors with an experience — whether that involves food, concerts or customer service — that makes them want to come back again and again, Sanfilippo said. Sanfilippo said L’Auberge is still trying to get the word out about the new casino complex, and it will probably take 12 to 18 months to let people in the region know the facility is open and what it has to offer.
Already enough people are hitting the facility on weekends that L’Auberge is planning to add 400 new parking spaces to the 2,400 it now has, he said.
The statewide report shows gamblers lost nearly $199.7 million at Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos in September, up from $196.6 million for September 2011.
Harrah’s New Orleans Casino took in $25.2 million in September, 17.9 percent less than a year ago.
Louisiana’s casino boats pulled in $141.8 million in September, an increase of $7.7 million, or 5.7 percent, compared with a year ago.
New Orleans’ three casino boats saw their September revenue dip by a total of $331,594 to $22.9 million, compared with a year ago.
The Shreveport/Bossier City market’s five boats saw revenue drop 6.4 percent to $51.6 million, while revenue at Lake Charles’ two boats grew by 3.1 percent, or $1.3 million, to $42.1 million.
Slot machine casinos at the four Louisiana horse tracks won $32.7 million, compared with $31.7 million a year earlier.
Among the racetrack slot parlors, Delta Downs, in Vinton, not far from the Texas state line, won more than $15.4 million, almost half the racetrack slot total. It was followed by Evangeline Downs, with almost $7.4 million; Harrah’s at Louisiana Downs, $5.9 million; and the Fair Grounds, $4 million.
The Associated Press
contributed to this report