SCHENECTADY — March was the most lucrative month ever for Rivers Casino & Resort, as it and other New York casinos reaped the benefits of a late-winter surge in gambling.
The state’s four non-Indian casinos are so new that it’s impossible to draw a trend for them in a particular month. But March has long has been among the strongest months for New York’s video gambling halls, which started operations 14 years ago and now number 11 statewide.
Data compiled by the state Gaming Commission show Rivers reported $13.79 million in gross gaming revenue for March 2018 to finish the 2017-2018 fiscal year with $140.94 million in gross gaming revenue. That’s a monthly average of $11.75 million.
March 2018 was the best month yet for Rivers, which opened in February 2017. The second-best month for Rivers was March 2017, at $13.59 million.
Rivers also outpaced the state’s three other non-Indian casinos in March: Del Lago reported $13.25 million in gross gaming revenue, Resorts World Catskills $12.4 million and Tioga Downs $7.41 million.
For the full fiscal year, del Lago narrowly edged Rivers with $145.59 million in gross gaming revenue. Tioga was a distant third at $70.4 million. Resorts World has been open only two months.
Rivers was first in another key metric: average revenue per slot machines and electronic table games, which provide 55 percent to 83 percent of the casinos’ total gambling revenue. Rivers got $91 million from its 1,150 machines. Del Lago got $106.4 million from 1,959 machines and Tioga got $60.22 million from 944 machines.
All four facilities are lagging well behind the first-year revenue projections offered during the planning process and regulatory review. As a result, their gaming tax payments to the state and their local municipalities also are lagging.
Rivers paid $45.94 million in gaming tax in the 12 months ended March 31. Of this, $36.78 million went to the state for education aid; $2.3 million each went to Schenectady and Schenectady County; and $4.59 million was split among Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie and Washington counties.
Here again, Rivers outperformed the others, because its slots are taxed at a higher rate; del Lago paid $43.29 million and Tioga paid $23.3 million in total gaming taxes over 12 months.
Through its New Jersey public relations firm, Rivers declined to comment for this story.
Meanwhile, at the state’s 11 video gambling facilities, March 2018 was the strongest month in the strongest year they’ve ever recorded, collectively.
In all, $38.59 billion was gambled during the 12 months, from which the facilities drew a net profit of $2.03 billion, on which they paid $926.2 million in taxes. The $3.49 billion gambled in March 2018 was the largest amount in any of those 12 months, narrowly edging $3.45 billion in July 2017.
March has been the strongest month collectively for the video gambling facilities in seven of the last 10 years, and very nearly the strongest month in the other three years.
The fortunes of the individual video gambling facilities are not as easy to generalize.
At Saratoga Casino Hotel, for example, July and August are typically the strongest months, thanks to the crowds of people visiting the region for the summer season and attending the famous thoroughbred racing meet nearby.
Nonetheless, $161.13 million was gambled at Saratoga Casino Hotel in March 2018, compared with $140.3 million in February 2018.
This isn't as good as it might seem at first blush. An average of $191.19 million was gambled at Saratoga Casino Hotel in the preceding five Marches, 2013 through 2017.
The facility has suffered a significant blow to its revenue since Rivers Casino & Resort opened 20 miles to the south.
For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018, Saratoga saw $1.97 billion gambled, compared with $2.42 billion in the preceding year, an 18.6 percent decrease. This yielded net revenue of $130.88 million, down from $164.03 million, on which it paid $62.26 million to the state for education aid, down from $79.16 million.