SCHENECTADY — Halfway through 2018, Rivers Casino & Resort is showing improved financial performance, with revenue in every month so far this year stronger than in the same month of 2017.
The facility, which opened on the Schenectady waterfront in February 2017, reported gross gaming revenue — money gambled minus winnings paid to gamblers — was up 15 percent for the February-June 2018 period.
Taxes paid on the gross gaming revenue in February-June 2018 were up 19.7 percent from the same period in 2017. So far this year, Rivers has paid $25.64 million in gaming tax; 80 percent went to the state; 5 percent each was paid to Schenectady and Schenectady County; and 10 percent was divided among seven nearby counties.
Officials at Rivers would not comment on what the casino has been doing to improve its financial performance.
Rivers in some ways is a leader among the four non-Indian casinos recently opened in New York.
It has more slot machines, table games and poker tables than Tioga Downs Casino but far fewer than either Resorts World Catskills or del Lago Resort and Casino. Yet, Rivers has brought in more gross gaming revenue so far this year than any of the others. It also has paid more in taxes, in part because it has a higher tax rate on its slot machines than the other three casinos.
From opening day through June 30, 2018, $1,585,349,128 was gambled at Rivers Casino. That compares with $2.08 billion at del Lago, which opened just several days before Rivers in 2017.
But gross gaming revenue is sagging at del Lago even as it grows at Rivers: del Lago was down 2 percent in February-June 2018 over the same period in 2017 while Rivers was up 15 percent.
Del Lago's general manager resigned in March and the casino announced a new director of sales last week.
Meanwhile, gross gaming revenue at Tioga Downs is up 10.5 percent so far in 2018.
Resorts World, the most ambitious and expensive of the four casinos, has been open only five months, so there are no 2017 data for comparison.
None of the four casinos has met the host community benefit projections made when the casino developers were trying to build support for their proposals and the state was seeking voter approval of limited legalization of non-Indian casino gambling.
In Schenectady, Rivers projected $3.32 million to $4.07 million in gaming taxes for the city in the first year the casino was open. The city budgeted $2.75 million on the assumption the casino would reach its low-end projection but be open only 10 months.
The city got only $2.07 million in 2017, so it lowered its expecations and budgeted $2.3 million in gaming tax revenue from the casino in 2018.
The city has received $1.29 million so far in 2018; if the casino maintains its peformance for the second half of 2018, taxes paid to the city will exceed the projection.
RACINOS HOLD ON
Meanwhile, the video gambling racinos located at New York harness racing tracks seem to be holding their own collectively against their new competitors.
For the first six months of 2018, $19.67 billion was gambled at the 10 video casinos in New York, a 4.1 percent increase from the same period in 2017.
Individually, however, some of these racinos have suffered from their new competition.
At Saratoga Casino Hotel, 20 miles north of Rivers Casino, patrons gambled 14.5 percent less money in the first six months of 2018 than in the same period in 2017.
This resulted in the racino paying 12.2 percent less in taxes so far in 2018.
It’s the second year of decline for the Saratoga gambling facility: Money gambled in the first six months of 2017 was down 6.8 percent from 2016.
Much worse off, however, was Monticello Casino & Raceway: 45 percent less money was gambled there in the first six months of 2018 than in 2017. It is less than four miles from the new Resorts World Catskills resort, which has the same corporate parent.