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Gambling revenue dipped last month

One fewer weekend hurt attendance, backers say.

Ohio’s gambling industry brought in less revenue in April — partly due to fewer weekends in the month — but the dropoff was less at the state’s four racinos than at the four casinos in Ohio.

The state’s racinos — which don’t allow table games — reported $47.3 million in revenue last month, according to figures released Wednesday. That was a drop of 7 percent from March’s record of $50.9 million.

Miami Valley Gaming in Turtlecreek Twp. brought in $10.6 million in April, a million-dollar drop from its take in March.

“Miami Valley is still a little new, but the last two times we’ve been there they’ve been really busy,” said Connie Miller, director of operations for the Ohio Lottery, which oversees the state’s racinos. “They’re meeting our expectation for revenues and we think they’ll continue to build a solid customer base.”

Miller said the state’s goal is for each racino to send $3 million of its winnings every month to the lottery, which distributes funds for education.

Ohio’s four casinos had a 13 percent decrease in revenue last month — dropping from $79.5 million in March to $69 million in April.

The casinos, which have seen three new racinos open since December, brought in less money last month than they did in April 2013, when their total revenue was $72.2 million.

Penn National Gaming spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said it might take until the end of 2015 to get a feel for how the Ohio market will play out. Penn National owns casinos in Columbus and Toledo and will open racinos in north Dayton and northeast Ohio in the fall.

“In the case of Ohio, it’s a brand-new market, and because of the state authorizing VLTs (video lottery terminals) at race tracks, you’ll have seven new facilities that, by this fall, will have opened over a 2 1/2-year period,” Tenenbaum said. “Even if only the four casinos had opened, it would take at least two years to get a good feeling for what long-term revenues are going to be.”

Fast start in May

Warmer weather has helped Miami Valley Gaming, which took in $5.2 million more in March and April than it did in the frigid months of January and February.

“The weather absolutely helps,” said Jeff Nelson, MVG’s senior director of marketing. “So does being open for a while and building our database and getting out and doing more promotions and getting the full machine running.”

Nelson said more than 140,000 people have signed up for MVG’s players club. Between 45 and 50 percent of those customers have made return trips, he said.

Nelson said May’s numbers “are looking great,” helped by the Kentucky Derby, which led to a full house last Saturday. May also has five weekends, which are the busiest days for the gaming industry.

“When you compare a month that has five weekends to four weekends, that’s a big difference,” he said.

More competition entered the market last Thursday when Belterra Park Gaming opened its doors. The former River Downs site southeast of Cincinnati on the banks of the Ohio River begins offering live thoroughbred racing today.

“I think most of their business will come from south of them. But with them coming in and Dayton Hollywood, that’s two more competitors,” Nelson said. “We wish we were a monopoly, but it’s not the case. We’re going to make sure we’re doing the things to keep our guests happy.”

MVG added an outdoor “gaming patio” this spring, which will allow customers to smoke while playing the slot machines.

Harness racing debuts at Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway, 4701 Wagner Ford Road, on Oct. 3 and the 56-date season will finish on Dec. 27.

Cincy turf battle

Belterra Park could provide some competition for MVG, Nelson said, but it will likely have a bigger impact on Horseshoe Cincinnati, which is just 7 miles away.

The downtown Cincinnati casino brought in $16.7 million last month, a drop from $20.1 million in March. The Horseshoe has eclipsed $20 million twice in 14 full months of operation, both times in March.

The Horeshoe Cleveland had the most revenue among Ohio’s casinos last month with $18.8 million, followed by Hollywood Columbus at $17.4 million. Hollywood Toledo brought in $16 million last month.

“There’s going to be some shifting,” Miller said. “Players will find the place they’re most comfortable.”

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