Indiana fighting to keep gaming lead

Dec 31, 2012 3:00 AM

The likelihood of expanded Illinois gaming and the arrival of a land-based Cincinnati casino this year has neighboring Indiana pondering the problems associated with staying ahead of whoever may be gaining on them.

Lawmakers there seem to appreciate what the gaming business has generated and are disturbed at the prospect of losing business to casinos on either side of their state.

The first reaction of some analysts and lawmakers has been to consider legislation that would allow casinos to move on to land. But the industry does not exactly speak with one voice on this issue, particularly companies that have spent vast sums improving their dockside barges, companies such as Penn National’s Lawrenceburg casino and the Hammond Horseshoe near the Illinois border.

Penn CEO Peter Carlino has addressed the pressure created by competition in some of the regional markets where Penn operates. He is short on specifics but says, “There’s a lot of concern about cannibalization. We’d love to operate in an environment where we are the only player, but that’s not the reality. This is all baked into our thinking. There’s good news and bad news.”

He acknowledged the cannibalization that has occurred in the Baton Rouge, La., market where Penn and a second operator face competition from Pinnacle’s recently opened resort.

“This is clearly a two-boat market,” he said. Penn will maintain its “disciplined approach” wherever it chooses to operate.

“A deal either pencils or it doesn’t pencil. If somebody else wants to do something stupid then let them. That’s sort of our view.”

His goal: To “run faster” than whatever company might be trying to catch Penn.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

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