For the first time since it got VLTs in 2004, Saratoga Casino and Raceway saw its annual revenue from video gaming drop year-to-year in the fiscal year that ended March 31, according to figures for the New York State Gaming Commission.
The raceway’s annual contribution to the State Education Fund fell $210,000, or .003 percent, in 2014-15. Its net win — revenue after payouts to players — fell $413,000, to $158.5 million, according to state figures.
A Saratoga Casino official cited weather and a “maturity” of the VLT market for the downturn.
Statewide, allocations were off roughly $3.3 million in the just-concluded 2014-15 fiscal year. Education contributions were off for seven of the nine racinos.
James D. Featherstonhaugh, secretary and chief legal officer for Saratoga Harness Racing Inc., said the small drop was the result of weather and the fact there is not much more room for the VLT market to grow.
“I just think its the maturity of the market. There is not an unlimited demand,” he said. “You will not see the same percentage of growth you saw in the early years.”
That said, he added it already appears racinos are rebounding in the first three months of this year, both in Saratoga and statewide, an assertion backed by statistics.
Statewide video gaming contributed $866.9 million to the education fund in 2014-15, compared with $870.2 million the year before. Statewide video gaming took in $1.905 billion after payouts, a decline of $7.01 million.
“There was a very modest 0.4 percent decline in total net win across New York state in FY 2014-15 due primarily to the slow pace of the economic recovery, which has affected gaming nationwide,” gaming commission spokesman Lee Park said Monday. “However, the final quarter of the fiscal year reversed the trend: Net win in the fourth quarter of 2014-15 was up $8.35 million versus fourth quarter 2013-14.”
Two facilities, Resorts World and Batavia Downs, posted year-over-year positive results.
Hamburg’s decline is primarily attributable to the opening of the Seneca Buffalo Creek casino and several changes to the Hamburg player rewards program that proved unpopular with players.
Park declined to speculate what impact incoming casinos in New York could have on racinos across the state. Featherstonhaugh said he expects the casino planned for Schenectady “will take some of our market, but it will create a bigger overall market.”
“If you are the state of New York, you will be better off,” he added.
Late last month, local state legislators said the new state budget will restore cuts that had been proposed to the state’s video lottery terminal aid for Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County.
The leaders announced that under the state budget Saratoga Springs will receive $2.3 million in VLT host community aid, about $500,000 more than the governor had proposed in January and about the same as last year.
Saratoga County will receive a VLT aid restoration of $166,114, bringing its total VLT host aid to $775,000.
Saratoga Springs officials, recognizing that the aid was subject to possible cuts, budgeted for receiving only $1.8 million in their current fiscal year, so the restoration came as a pleasant surprise.
There were similar aid cuts proposed by the governor in 2014, followed by a similar restoration during budget negotiations.
The money is intended to compensate the city and county for additional costs they incur for police, fire protection and other expenses because they are the host communities for the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, with its slot machine-style gambling floor.