Louisiana Casino Boom Slowing Down

New Orleans (AP) — With the Mississippi Gulf Coast casino industry continuing its comeback, the bloom is off the recent post-hurricane boom for Louisiana casinos.

Players left behind USD 226.5 million at Louisiana’s state-licensed casinos in July, up USD 8.8 million from USD 217.7 million in July 2005, state police reported Tuesday.

But the increase was much smaller than in previous months. For example, the casinos took just USD 17.5 million more in June 2006 than in June 2005. The largest spurt of growth came in March, when the casinos won USD 40.5 million more than in March 2005.

Five casinos have reopened on the Mississippi coast and, according to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, two others will open before the end of August. Those casinos won USD 65.1 million in June, the latest month for which figures are available.

Andy Holtmann, editor of the Las Vegas-based Casino Journal, said the drop-off was not surprising.

„You’re starting to see the business on the Mississippi Gulf Coast recover,“ Holtmann said. „It’s new and bright and people are checking it out.“

Holtmann said that after initial curiosity wore off, Louisiana might get back some of the dollars, but with billions of dollars in planned investments by casino companies, the Mississippi Gulf Coast stands „to come back 10 times stronger than it was.“

In July, Louisiana’a 12 operating riverboats took in USD 161.9 million, up slightly from USD 157.5 million a year ago. Harrah’s New Orleans won USD 31.6 million, compared with USD 29.5 million in July 2005, while gamblers at the three race track casinos lost USD 33 million, up from USD 30.7 million a year ago.

In the New Orleans market, which has two riverboats in addition to the Harrah’s land casino, gamblers lost USD 61.4 million, compared with USD 55.5 million a year ago when there was one more riverboat in the region.

In the Shreveport-Bossier City market, which has five riverboats and the Louisiana Downs track casino, gamblers lost USD 76.6 million, compared with USD 76.2 million in July 2005. That area has faced increased competition from Indian reservation casinos in Oklahoma City, which draws customers from the same Dallas-Fort Worth base that feeds the northwestern Louisiana market.

The three riverboats and the Delta Downs track casino, which make up the Lake Charles market, won USD 58.1 million, down slightly from USD 60.2 million in July 2005. However, there were two additional riverboats operating in that market a year ago.

In Baton Rouge, which saw its population jump sharply from Hurricane Katrina, players lost USD 21.5 million at the city’s two riverboats, compared with USD 17.4 million a year ago.

The Evangeline Downs track casino at Opelousas claimed USD 9 million in winnings, up from USD 7.9 million a year ago.

The figures do not include the three Indian reservation casinos in Louisiana, which are not required to make their revenue figures public.