French Lick casino struggles months after debut

French Lick, Indiana — The French Lick Resort and Casino — hailed as a key to a potential economy recovery for Southern Indiana — continues to wage an uphill financial struggle eight months after opening.

French Lick continues to lag Indiana’s 10 other casinos in every significant category — including admissions, gross revenues and the average amount it wins from patrons at each slot machine and table game chair, state figures show.

„Even based on published data and public data from the Indiana Gaming Commission, they weren’t doing quite as well as originally anticipated,“ said Standard & Poor’s analyst Ariel Silverberg.

French Lick ranked last in the amount of money won per admission and per gambling position, state figures from last November and May showed.

French Lick executives met last week with Indiana Gaming Commission staff to discuss ways to improve the figures.

„As of right now, we’re obviously being very observant,“ said Ernie Yelton, the gaming commission’s executive director. But, he added, „we have no grave concerns about future success.“

French Lick faces competition from established casinos, and its remote location 60 miles northeast of Evansville doesn’t help, said Dennis J. Farrell Jr., an analyst with Wachovia Securities. „It’s definitely been a difficult ramp-up period,“ he said.

The casino faces more potential competition from slot machines lawmakers have approved for Central Indiana’s two horse racing tracks.

Cook Group and Lauth Property Group partnered two years ago to build the casino.

„It’s going to take a little time to mature,“ Yelton said, but „we got a strong sense of a commitment to make this financially solid going forward.“