Hurricane Sandy blows slots revenues down steep slope

Really bad weather is really bad news for casinos.

October slot machine revenue reported Thursday by Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun — and earlier by Atlantic City's 12 casinos — would seem to reinforce the notion.

Mohegan Sun's slots "win," the amount from wagers that the casino keeps after paying out prizes, totaled $48.5 million for the storm-ravaged month, a 17.6 percent decline over October 2011. It may be the biggest monthly decline in Mohegan Sun's history and certainly the biggest since a 14.6 percent decline in March 2009.

Foxwoods, including MGM Grand at Foxwoods, fared about the same as Mohegan Sun, reporting October slots win of $42.9 million, down 15.6 percent.

Figures released last week by New Jersey officials show Atlantic City gaming revenues, including those for table games as well as slots, were off a record 19.9 percent in October. Atlantic City casinos were closed during the last four days of the month because of Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on Oct. 29.

Both local casinos stayed open during the storm and its aftermath.

"It was certainly a challenging month," Bobby Soper, Mohegan Sun's president and chief executive officer, said. "The hurricane obviously made an impact. But it was also a difficult month for us because of what we had to compare it to. Last October was our 15th year celebration, which included a celebrity weekend with a special appearance by Jennifer Lopez.

"When people don't have power and they're addressing their own needs at home, and the governor closes the roads, it's going to impact business."

Major highways in Connecticut were closed for a period during the storm.

Despite the plunge in slots revenue, Mohegan Sun's "nongaming volumes" were strong in October, Soper said, suggesting the casino may have benefited from traffic diverted from the Atlantic City casinos.

"Gaming numbers don't reflect everything," he said. "We had full (hotel) occupancy on those days."

For Soper, who took the helm at Mohegan Sun on Oct. 22 after years leading its sister property, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Sandy provided a harsh welcome.

"I don't know how many hurricanes we're going to have," he said. "We remain optimistic."

Foxwoods also cited Sandy as a major factor in its slots revenue decline.

"They're pretty consistent with the market," Scott Butera, Foxwoods' president and CEO, said of Foxwoods' numbers. "They're reflective of what's going on in the economy and, of course, the impact of the storm."

Butera also noted that Resorts World Casino, the slots facility at the Aqueduct racetrack in New York City, didn't open until the end of October 2011, meaning the Connecticut casinos had less competition that month than in every month since then.

Resorts World has overtaken Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods in terms of slots revenue. Resorts World reported a slots win of $52.3 million for last month.

Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, north of New York City, reported October slots win of $40.2 million, down 23 percent when compared to October 2011.

October Slots Revenues
 FoxwoodsMohegan Sun
Total win$42.9 million$48.5 million
Yearly change-15.6 percent-17.6 percent
State contribution$11.1 million$12.1 million
*Hold8.26 percent8.4 percent
Operating units6,2345,695
*Hold is the average percent of total wagers kept by the casino.


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