Slot woes travel East

Jun 26, 2007 5:20 AM

As reported earlier this month by GamingToday, slot machines in Nevada casinos appear to be losing ground to table games in their battle for gambling customers.

Specifically, over the past two years slot machines’ share of total gaming win slipped from 67.2% to 65.8%, while table games increased their share from 31.8% to 32.9%.

Now it appears the slot slowdown appears to be a trend in other gaming jurisdictions, at least along the Eastern seaboard.

A sampling of Atlantic City casinos reveals that slots’ share of total gaming win declined by an average of 2% to 4% since 2004.

Bally’s, for instance, reported slot machines’ share of the win total slipped from 76.9% to 72.5%, while the Hilton’s slot machines saw its share dip from 72.6% to 70.5%.

Gaming experts point out that the increased popularity of table games and poker has contributed to the decline in slot play, but "tighter" machines may also be a contributing factor.

In Atlantic City, the average slot machine has a win or "hold" percentage of about 8.6%, down from about 8% in 2004.

Although less than 1% doesn’t sound like a lot, when applied to the billions of dollars played through the machines it becomes significant.

A similar trend was noted in Nevada, where slot machines are collectively holding about 1.3% more from players than they did two years ago.

In another major Eastern market, slot machines at Connecticut’s two Indian casinos took in about $85 million less this May than the same time a year ago.

Gamblers fed nearly $787.3 million into slot machines at Foxwoods Resort Casino, down from about $829.8 million in May 2006. At Mohegan Sun, visitors played $868.6 million on the casino’s slots compared to $911.4 million last year at this time.

Foxwoods President John O’Brien said he believed competition and cost-of-living increases contributed in part to the decline.

"Our slot numbers this month are down slightly and continue to reflect the impact associated with the two additional gaming outlets in the region," he said. "That, combined with the overall economic impact of higher gas prices, has contributed to a slower than usual month for us."

Nonetheless, during the past two years, Foxwoods only has had three months where slot revenue surpassed its 2004-05 level. The casino also has seen its yearly handle, the amount of money played in its 7,200 slot machines, decline from an all-time high of $9.9 billion in 2001-02 to $9.4 billion in 2005-06.

The drop-off is even more dramatic for Mohegan Sun, which has seen only five months since 2004-05 where monthly slots have not been down from the same month in previous years. The casino saw its highest-grossing year-to-date in 2005-06, when it took in $10.4 billion.