ut the national economic downturn, which already has hit other venues, put a distinguishable shadow over the industry in Louisiana last month - one that an analyst said could last for some time. In Shreveport-Bossier City, the only Louisiana market that did not have a storm closure last month, winnings dropped to us$ 61.7 million in September from us$ 68.2 million in September 2007.
Louisiana’s 13 riverboat casinos, the four slot machine casinos at race tracks and the downtown New Orleans casino took in just under us$ 162.8 million from gamblers last month - down from us$ 210.7 million the previous September. Outlets in the New Orleans region, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Opelousas and Morgan City were closed from three to eight days because of the storms.
Louisiana seems to be following the pattern of other casino states, said Nick Danna, an analyst who follows the casino business for Stern, Agee & Leach in New Orleans.
Larger gambling destinations already have been reporting big declines in the face of the slow economy. Nevada casino revenue fell 8.1 % in August 2008 from August 2007, while the 11 casinos in Atlantic City, said revenue was down 15.1 % in September 2008 from September 2007 - the steepest monthly fall since 1978.
Casino giant MGM Mirage Inc. recently said the company is unlikely to give performance bonuses to its employees at the end of this year because it expects to fall short of its profitability goals. In Mississippi, which avoided Ike-related closures, regulators reported winnings from gamblers last month fell 18.9 % from September 2007.
Although the industry has gone through downturns before, there are different dynamics in play this time, Danna said. First, the industry has expanded vastly since the 2001 downturn: There are about 900,000 slot machines available in the United States, compared with about 200,000 seven years ago, Danna said. And the casino business has become more dependent upon non-gambling revenue.
"Gambling revenue was considered to be somewhat recession proof," Danna said. "But hotels, food, entertainment, beverages are more discretionary and subject to recessions." Tight credit markets also have hampered the ability of casinos to expand and modernize - and tight personal credit has affected how much customers can spend, he said.