The New Orleans casino market saw its winnings drop by 8.5 percent in August, as Harrah’s continues to be hard hit by the city’s ban on smoking.
Harrah’s, the market’s three riverboats and the slots at the Fair Grounds racetrack brought in $48.4 million during August, according to figures released Thursday by Louisiana State Police. That compares with $52.9 million in winnings in August 2014.
A month after Harrah’s posted a 26 percent annual increase in winnings, which officials with the casino said was due to an uptick in winnings at the table games, revenue at the land-based casino fell again.
The casino posted nearly $22.6 million in winnings, a 17 percent drop from the $27.2 million it won during August 2014.
Harrah’s has blamed its declining revenue on the city’s smoking ban, which forces gamblers to leave the slot machines and table games for a cigarette. In an effort to keep people gambling while they smoke, earlier this month, the casino applied for a permit to build two outdoor courtyards that would include slot machines. Harrah’s contends in its application that the courtyards would improve safety for its customers — who now must go outside to smoke — and reduce litter that’s started to accumulate near two temporary smoking areas that are now in use.
Winnings at the Fair Grounds dropped by 9.3 percent in August, as the racino brought in $3.2 million during the month, in contrast with the nearly $3.6 million it won in August 2014.
While business was falling at Harrah’s and the Fair Grounds, winnings were up at two local riverboats.
Boomtown New Orleans brought in nearly $10 million in August, a 6.2 percent increase over the $9.4 million that was won in August 2014. Treasure Chest had a 4.7 percent increase, going from $8.3 million in August 2014 to $8.7 million.
The Amelia Belle was down 11.7 percent, falling from $4.4 million in August 2014 to $3.9 million.
Statewide, the 15 riverboats, four racetrack slots casinos and Harrah’s brought in nearly $214.1 million in August, 1.7 percent less than the $217.8 million the gambling halls won the year before.
The decline would have been steeper if not for the addition of the Golden Nugget Lake Charles. That riverboat casino, which opened in December, had $20.7 million in winnings during the month.
Baton Rouge’s riverboat casinos brought in 4.3 percent less in August than they did the year before, as all three properties reported drops in revenue. The riverboats’ combined winnings totaled more than $23.3 million in August, compared with $24.4 million in August 2014.
Lake Charles, the state’s largest casino market, saw its winnings go up by 21.5 percent, thanks to the addition of Golden Nugget. The three riverboats and slots at the Delta Downs track bought in $75 million, compared with $61.7 million the year before.
Shreveport-Bossier City was down 15.7 percent, with the six riverboat casinos and the slots at the Harrah’s racetrack bringing in $60 million. The Opelousas market, represented by the slots at Evangeline Downs, was down by 3.3 percent to $7.3 million.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter @TCB_TheAdvocate