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Another growth year for Schenectady’s Rivers, other New York casinos

Another growth year for Schenectady’s Rivers, other New York casinos

Dollars gambled and taxes paid continue to increase at all four gambling facilities
Another growth year for Schenectady’s Rivers, other New York casinos
Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady is shown the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019.
Photographer: Peter Barber

SCHENECTADY — New York casinos continued their upward trend in revenue earned and taxes paid in 2019.

Schenectady’s Rivers Casino & Resort remained second among the state’s four non-Indian casinos for gross gaming revenue, behind the much-larger Resorts World Catskills in Monticello. But Rivers remained the highest-taxed, paying more than Resorts World, Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier and Del Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes region.

Meanwhile, Saratoga Casino Hotel, which saw a major decline in revenue after Rivers opened 19 miles to the south in February 2017, appears to have stopped its two-year slide.

The net win at Saratoga’s roughly 1,400 video slot machines — credits played by gamblers minus money paid out as winnings — was $10.6 million per month in the first 11 months of 2019. That’s up from $10.48 million in fiscal year 2018-2019 but down from $10.91 million in 2017-2018. And Saratoga averaged $13.6 million a month in fiscal 2016-2017.

At the threshold of 2020, the four non-Indian casinos continue to rely heavily on their slot machines for revenue. 

Gamblers dropped $1.25 billion into Rivers slots in the first 11 months of 2019, giving the casino $109 million in gross gaming revenue — money bet minus money won back. Table games yielded $38.5 million in gross revenue for Rivers in that period and poker tables yielded just $4.7 million. 

Sports wagering became legal in New York in mid-2019, and the first legal bet in the state was cast at Rivers in July. From July through November, Rivers drew $3.19 million in gross revenue from bets on sporting events.

Some other factoids about Rivers and its competitors in 2019:

  • Rivers is the only casino of the four that didn’t decrease the total number of slot machines on its floor.
  • Rivers made an average of $284 per day on each of its 1,150 slot machines, by far the highest among the four casinos on this key industry metric.
  • Rivers accrues more revenue from its slots than the other three casinos do — 8.7 cents of every dollar played — because it gives away the smallest percentage of promotional credits, only 0.78 cents of every dollar played vs. up to 2.28 cents at the others. 
  • The slot payout to gamblers among three of the four casinos is very similar — 90.52% at Rivers, 90.73% at Del Lago and 90.76% at Resorts. Tioga is the outlier, but still close at 91.57%. Saratoga Casino, meanwhile, has a 92.33% payout on its video slot machines.
  • Sports wagering is the most volatile source of revenue for Rivers from week to week, ranging from $346,682 the first week in September to $7,984 the second week in December, with numerous ups and downs in between and even one stretch in which the house lost money — $41,650 the third week in November.

All of this gambling at Rivers had yielded $53.68 million in tax revenue in the 11 months through Nov. 30, 2019. Eighty percent of this was retained by New York state. The remaining 20 percent went to the city and county of Schenectady (5 percent each) and Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie and Washington counties (10 percent total, divied up on a per-capita basis).

The state’s four non-Indian casinos did not initially reach the revenue and tax projections their developers offered while vying for state licenses, but three years on, they also have not cannibalized each other’s revenue, as some analysts predicted — revenue (and taxes) have increased each year at the four casinos.

Saratoga Casino and Hotel's experience notwithstanding, video casinos as an industry also are doing better in New York state, with dollars gambled and net win increasing every year since fiscal 2014-2015 and on track to increase again in 2019-2020.

REVENUE AND TAXES

The following table shows gross gaming revenue reported and gaming taxes paid by the four non-Indian casinos in New York state; Saratoga Casino Hotel, a video gambling facility, is shown for sake of comparison. From left to right are the totals for the first 11 months of calendar year 2019, all of fiscal year 2018-2019 and all of fiscal 2017-2018. All figures are millions of dollars:

Average monthly gross gaming revenue

  • Del Lago Resort $13.18 $12.75 $12.13
  • Resorts World $17.47 $13.71 NA
  • Rivers Casino $14.3 $13.09 $11.74
  • Saratoga Casino $10.60 $10.48 $10.91
  • Tioga Downs $6.97 $6.62 $5.86

Average monthly gaming tax paid

  • Del Lago Resort $3.95 $3.88 $3.61
  • Resorts World $4.70 $3.66 NA
  • Rivers Casino $4.88 $4.44 $3.83
  • Saratoga Casino $5.34 $4.97 $5.19
  • Tioga Downs $2.29 $2.2 $1.94
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