Revenues rise slightly for Massachusett's only casino in second full year
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts' first — and so far only — casino has enjoyed a modest revenue bump in its second full year in operation.
Plainridge Park has generated roughly $157 million in gross gambling revenues since last June, or slightly higher than the $154 million it registered in its first full year, according to an Associated Press review of state data.
The modest gains come as the Plainville casino, owned by Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming, has taken steps in recent months to attract younger patrons by hosting rock concerts, boxing matches and other live events.
"Overall, it's done better than I expected," says David Gulley, an economics professor at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. "It's always hard for a new gaming facility to live up to expectations and to maintain the initial excitement that surrounds the grand opening."
But the annual haul is still a far cry from the $300 million initially projected for the slots parlor and harness racing track when it opened June 24, 2015.
The casino also has been tilting payouts in customers' favor as it competes with Twin River, a larger, full-scale casino about 20 miles away in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Plainridge Park is retaining about 8 percent of all slot machine wagers, down from just over 10 percent when it first opened, according to state data. Its "hold," as the industry calls it, has been as low as 7 percent of wagers (or "coin-in") at various times this year.
Casinos outside of Las Vegas generally retain anywhere from 7 to 11 percent of wagers, depending on the level of local competition, according to Clyde Barrow, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, Texas, who has spent years studying casinos in the Northeast.
"Plainridge is having to return more money to its customers to keep them coming back," he said.
Penn National Gaming officials, who declined to comment on the AP's revenue-related questions, have previously touted Plainridge Park as one of the more lucrative of their casinos.
Indeed, the casino's 1,250 slot machines have consistently averaged above the industry standard of $300 a day in revenue, says Paul DeBole, a political science professor at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, who has been analyzing the casino's monthly revenues.
The result has been a "significant economic plus" for the state, which collects 49 percent of Plainridge's gambling revenues, says Stephen Crosby, chairman of the state Gaming Commission.
Plainridge has generated $152 million in state funds over two years, created 500 jobs (of which 90 percent are currently held by state residents) and spent nearly $2 million annually at local businesses, he said.
But Plainridge Park's run as the lone casino in Massachusetts will soon come to an end. MGM is scheduled to open a Las Vegas-style destination resort casino in Springfield in late 2018 and Wynn Resorts is slated to open its own in the Boston-area in summer 2019.
DeBole estimates the facility could see gross revenues drop to $92 million to $110 million annually when the two facilities — as well as potentially two Native American tribe-operated casinos — open.
"No matter how you look at it, Plainridge Park is a success," he said. "They seem to be making all of the right moves to attract and keep a loyal customer base. The question is will these numbers hold."