Saturday, February 21, 2004

Casinos thank weather, calendar

Riverboat profits jump over last year

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Better weather, clear roads and an extra Saturday in January helped the three Southeastern Indiana casinos post a double-digit revenue gain from a year ago.

Combined, the casinos collected $58.2 million in January gaming win (actual gamblers' losses), a 10.4 percent gain from $52.7 million in January 2003, according to figures released Friday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

"The most important thing is that the whole market had a pretty healthy month," said Larry Buck, who left Rising Sun's Grand Victoria Casino & Resort in January to become general manager of the Belterra Casino Resort.

Argosy Hotel & Casino in Lawrenceburg collected $35.7 million in gaming win, a 17.5 percent surge over the year before.

"Those extra weekends days really mean a lot," said Argosy General Manager Larry Kinser .

Belterra's win increased 5.4 percent to $10.8 million. Grand Victoria was the only casino that took in less than a year ago, down 3.1 percent to $11.8 million.

Jeff Michie, Grand Victoria's chief financial officer, said last January's higher gaming win was driven by free coupons and other special one-time promotions for gamblers. He said the riverboat actually had a more profitable January this year.

Indiana's gaming win report doesn't track casino profits. It only counts gross revenue before casinos pay taxes, salaries, benefits and other expenses.

With the extra win comes rising tax bills.

The three casinos paid more than $20 million in taxes last month with Argosy footing the largest tax bill of $13.4 million followed by Grand Victoria ($3.7 million) and Belterra ($3.3 million).

Buck forecasts continued improvement at Belterra through this year as the company finishes a 10-story, 300-room addition in May. The property also opened a 33,000-square-foot convention space this month targeted for business meetings and special events.

"It is getting very much a flavor of a resort destination," Buck said. "Now we're starting to get people from other markets like Cleveland and Nashville."


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