Revenue returns during the past fiscal year were a mix of good and bad news for upstate video lottery terminal operators.
Locally, the good news is that the Saratoga Casino and Raceway continued to add revenue between April 2013 and March 2014, although at a much slower pace than in prior years. The bad news is that many of the other upstate VLT facilities saw declines during that same period.
The decreases came even as VLTs generated a record $1.91 billion in net revenue and $916.4 million in profit, according to the state Gaming Commission. Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack alone recorded $792.6 million in net revenue and $368 million in profit for education.
The year-over-year increase from all nine VLT facilities totaled $87 million or 4.8 percent, according to figures released by the Gaming Commission. At the racino in Saratoga Springs — the oldest of the state’s VLT facilities — the annual net revenues increased by $200,000 to $158.9 million, reflecting a 0.1 percent jump over last year’s figures.
But four VLT facilities posted net losses year-over-year. Gaming Commission officials blamed the losses on a variety of factors, including the harsh winter weather that reduced traffic for the upstate VLT facilities.
Other factors include the expansion of gaming opportunities throughout the state, including in western New York. Also, the record $590 million Powerball jackpot in 2013 also may have impacted figures.
“There are fluctuations, just like any business, but it’s clear that the overall trend on VLT revenue has been trending up,” said Lee Park, a spokesman for the Gaming Commission. “After a full decade of operation, VLT revenue increased statewide this year by 4.8 percent to a record total of $1.91 billion.”
Some operators aren’t convinced.
Gary Greenberg, a minority owner of the Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel, believes the downward trend at four of the nine VLT facilities will continue and spread. As evidence, he said the recent good weather in upstate failed to improve revenues for five of eight VLT facilities. “The weather is nice now, so that factor can no longer be an excuse,” he said in an email.
Greenberg believes the decline operators are seeing upstate will only be accentuated as live table games come online within two years. Up to four casino licenses are expected to be issued to three distinct areas in upstate, including at least one for the eight-county Capital Region.
Operators of the Saratoga Casino and Raceway have warned they could lose as much as 40 percent of their business once a casino is cited in a nearby or neighboring county. The losses are the racino’s justification in pushing a controversial two-phase 134,000-square-foot expansion that would add a hotel and 2,000-seat event center.