BR casino market maintains gains

Baton Rouge’s casino revenues jumped 52.4 percent in December to $22.9 million, the fourth consecutive month of such increases since L’Auberge Baton Rouge opened, according to a report presented Thursday to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

Figures posted by regulators show that, overall, December was a good month statewide for casinos, although the riverboat figures were mixed because of Baton Rouge’s new casino and ongoing changes in other areas.

For the year, Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos won roughly $2.40 billion from gamblers, up from about $2.37 billion in 2011.

L’Auberge continued to dominate the Baton Rouge market by pulling in close to $11 million. Hollywood Casino’s revenue dipped to $7.1 million, a drop of $2.7 million, or 27.8 percent, compared with December 2011. The Belle of Baton Rouge saw revenue decline by 6.2 percent, or $321,933, to $4.9 million.

The fact that the entire Baton Rouge market is up means L’Auberge is drawing people from outside the area, Gaming Control Board Chairman Dale Hall said after the meeting.

“Now where that’s coming from it’s hard to say,” Hall said.

It’s possible that L’Auberge is pulling customers away from the Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos or from the American Indian casinos, Hall said.

The Indian casinos don’t have to report to the Gaming Control Board, so it’s impossible to say whether their revenue is up, down or the same.

Since opening in September, L’Auberge has generated $47.0 million in gambling revenue, State Police records show. Over that same period, Hollywood had revenue of $28.2 million, a drop of $9.3 million, or nearly 25.0 percent.

The Belle has taken a smaller revenue hit over the same time period. From September to December, the Belle had revenue of $18.6 million, down $2.2 million, or 10.6 percent.

Despite the money siphoned by L’Auberge from the Belle and Hollywood, gambling revenue gains for the overall market remain high, though somewhat sporadic over the four-month period. Year-over-year market gains started at 69 percent in September, dropped to 58 percent in October, rebounded to 63 percent in November and went to 52 percent in December.

In addition to taking business from other casinos, Hall said L’Auberge and the Baton Rouge market may also have benefitted from LSU football fans, who come from all over the state and the country.

Mississippi does not report its December gambling revenue until Sunday.

However, from September to November, gambling revenue in the state’s Gulf Coast counties was down $2.9 million, according to figures from the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

Statewide figures for Louisiana show Harrah’s land-based casino in New Orleans won $34.7 million in December. That was better than the $32.1 million the casino took in during December 2011.

Thirteen state-licensed riverboat casinos took in $143.5 million last month, up from $138.6 million in December 2011. Slot-machine casinos at the state’s four horse racing tracks took in $33.2 million in December, up from $31.2 million in December 2011.

For the calendar year, Harrah’s New Orleans took in $338.9 million; the riverboats, more than $1.6 billion; the race track casinos, $405 million.

The figures do not include revenue from Indian reservation casinos, which are not required to report winnings to the public.

The overall improvement in December was not even throughout the markets — led by the gain in the Baton Rouge market because of the addition of L’Auberge.

The New Orleans riverboat market was flat year-to-year.

In Lake Charles, where the ownership of Grand Palais transferred to another market in February, the total take for the market was down almost 2 percent from December to December. The Shreveport-Bossier market was down 3.7 percent.

The Grand Palais ownership was transferred to the Margaritaville project that is slated to open in June in Bossier City. Project developers have said the casino’s theme will grow the Shreveport-Bossier market by luring back Dallas gamblers from Oklahoma. But some local casino operators have argued that the addition of a sixth riverboat casino could cannibalize the existing market.

Advocate business writer Ted Griggs and Associated Press writer Kevin McGill contributed to this report.