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Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2001

KC casinos see profits increase

July 12, 2001

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— Missouri's casino industry has hit the jackpot, posting its first $1 billion year as fewer gamblers lost more money on the riverboats.

Overall, the $1.05 billion in total revenue reported by Missouri casinos in the fiscal year that ended June 30 was up 7.3 percent from $977 million the previous year, according to a new report from the Missouri Gaming Commission.

Casino admissions dropped slightly, to 24.4 million gamblers from 24.7 million.

Commission analyst James Oberkirsch calculated the average loss per gambler in Kansas City at $47.86 per visit up 10 percent from 2000. Oberkirsch said St. Louis area gamblers lost even more $51.32 on average.

The Missouri casinos' pull ran contrary to the trend in other jurisdictions, where gambling revenues have been flattened by the slowing economy and a reduction in consumer spending.

The revenue figures represent casino income before taxes, payroll and operating expenses.

For the fiscal year, gambling taxes levied by the state and riverboat host cities added up to over $300 million. The largest share is used for state education spending.

The Argosy Riverside Casino's operations director, Terry Schneider, said a big factor in revenue growth has been the popularity of a growing number of small-denomination slot machines.

Those penny, nickel and dime devices often are themed to pop culture icons such as "Yahtzee" and "I Dream of Jeannie." The new games also typically offer the industry's most entertaining graphics, sound effects and bonus rounds of play while accepting wages of up to 45 coins per pull.

Schneider said Argosy in recent months has seen its small-denomination slot games jump from a modest 8 percent of total casino revenue to around 20 percent.

Gaming commission executive director Mark Mullally said the growth shows that "Missouri's tough regulatory stance is not deterring improvement."

Missouri's 10th casino is expected to open later this month. Mullally said the Mark Twain Casino in La Grange, near Hannibal, will face its final licensing vote before the commission July 25. If approved, it will open later that day.

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