SCHENECTADY — Revenue at New York state’s non-Indian casinos dropped up to 60% from 2019 to 2020.
The steep drop-off was expected, thanks to COVID — the casinos subject to state regulation were closed for nearly six months after the pandemic hit, or about 50% of the year, and operated at reduced capacity for more than three months, or about 30% of the year.
Simply put, there are fewer people going to casinos and/or fewer seats where they can sit and gamble in those casinos. December statistics recently updated by the state regulatory agency quantify this.
Schenectady’s Rivers Casino & Resort suffered the smallest impact among the four state-regulated casinos, dropping 55% to $76.1 million in gross gaming revenue for 2020. On this, it paid $26.4 million in gaming tax, also a 55% drop.
Very strong performance in January and February 2020 — the only part of the year not affected by COVID — slightly lessened the impact of the next 10 months. Gross gaming revenue was 28% higher in January and February 2020 than in 2019.
For the year, Rivers was second-highest in gaming revenue among the four casinos and highest in taxes paid.
Saratoga Casino Hotel, meanwhile, had a net win of $50.4 million in 2020 and paid $24.4 million in taxes on it. That’s a 60% drop in net win from 2019.
Elsewhere in New York state:
- Del Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes region reported $61.2 million in 2020 gross gaming revenue, down 61%.
- Resorts World Catskills reported $87 million in revenue, down 58%.
- Tioga Downs Casino in the Southern Tier reported $35.5 million in revenue, down 57%.
- As a whole, Saratoga and New York’s eight other video gaming locations saw revenue drop 62% year over year.
As the crow flies, the closest competing facility to Rivers and Saratoga is MGM Springfield in Massachusetts. It reported $138 million in 2020 revenue, a 52% drop from 2019. MGM was closed for three whole months and part of two others, so was open a bit longer than the New York casinos.
New York casinos face a number of other restrictions, including reduced operating hours to allow for deep cleaning; reduced maximum capacity, to limit crowd size; and reduced number of machines or seats, so as to increase distance between gamblers.
The New York State Gaming Commission, based on Broadway in Schenectady, maintains a database of casino financial information online. Within the data about Rivers and Saratoga is the following information:
- The city and county of Schenectady each got $1.33 million of the gaming tax that Rivers paid in 2020. They each got $2.93 million in 2019. The city and county each get 5% of the gaming tax Rivers pays, while the state gets 80% and seven nearby counties divide 10%.
- Sports betting revenue has been a standout for Rivers in the COVID era. It varies greatly from month to month, depending on how many big games there are and how the teams score in comparison to the point spread. But average monthly revenue at the Rivers Sportsbook is 25% higher in the five months of operation since March 2020 than in the eight months before.
- Meanwhile, credits played in slot machines and electronic tables games — by far the largest source of gaming revenue for Rivers — plunged as Rivers dropped from 1,150 slot machines and ETGs when it closed in March to 691 when it reopened in September. By suspending poker games and making other adaptations to its floor space, Rivers was back up to 818 slots and ETGs by December.
- At Saratoga Casino Hotel, the number of video gaming machines fluctuates monthly. Since its reopening, Saratoga has increased from 494 VGMs in September to 660 machines in December. From April 2019 to March 2020, it had shrunk from 1,630 VGMs to 1,095.
- The net win at Saratoga’s VGMs — the profit left for the house after it pays gamblers their winnings — dropped 42% after COVID hit the state in March 2020.
- In October 2020, the most lucrative month since Saratoga reopened, guests played $112.9 million on the VGMs. This compares with $159.8 million in October 2019.