Central New York State Casinos See Revenues Drop, But Officials See Summer Numbers Heating Up

Posted on: July 11, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: July 11, 2017, 01:47h.

The three casinos in central New York State have experienced a revenue slump, but officials believe it is only temporary and are already seeing signs of a summer rebound. While weekly gaming earnings either dropped or remained stagnant from March to June, July has been seeing an increase.

del Lago resort New York State revenue shortfall
People waited in long lines to see New York State casinos, like the del Lago, when they first opened, but the crowds and revenues have fallen in subsequent months. (Image: Dennis Nett/Syracuse.com.)

Del Lago in Waterloo and Rivers Casino in Schenectady, both of which opened earlier this year, had the biggest decreases. Del Lago, which had its debut on February 7, had a peak of $3.7 million for the week ending February 26, but struggled to stay above $3 million most weeks up until the first week of July.

Rivers Casino, which had its grand opening a day later, was above the $3 million mark per week for most of February and March, but then plunged in April, and hasn’t been able to get back to that mark. Tioga Downs, which was the first of the three to open back on December 2, stayed at about $1.5 million. That casino has less than half the gaming tables of the other two.

Jeff Babinski, general manager at del Lago, told NYup.com that the figures are not that surprising.

“We knew that in the first few months, people would come out to see what we’re about, kick the tires,” he said. “But we also know there’s a lot of competition that wasn’t here a year ago and there are people who would try one place and then maybe another.”

Predictions Off Mark

While revenue is starting to climb upward, it’s still short of the amounts estimated by casinos when they submitted their applications. Del Lago forecast annual earnings of $282 million by 2019, or an average of $5.4 million per week, meaning they have a large gap to overcome in the next year and a half.

Rivers projected gaming revenues of $222.5 million in 2019, or an average of $4.3 million per week.

They have 18 months to reach those numbers and both casinos believe recently opened hotels and other amenities, such as spas and restaurants, will allow them to reach their projections.

“We think it will pick up and remain steady when people see what we have to offer,” Babinski told NYup.com. “We’d like people to come here, especially with the hotel, maybe go out for the day to visit the wineries, then come back for dinner and hopefully do a little gaming.”

But with a fourth resort set to open next year, will that add to the other’s coffers, or take away business? Resorts World Catskills is a $1 billion project and a joint venture between Empire Resorts and Malaysian casino giant Genting. Each of the four are in different regions of the Empire State, but are still competing for the state’s gamblers.

Small Towns Hit Big Jackpots

One segment of the casino revenue pie that isn’t complaining are the small towns that see immediate windfalls from taxes and fees. Nichols is a city of approximately 2,700 people and the agricultural area has a budget of around $1.5 million annually.

When Tioga Downs paid its licensing fee, the town got a check for $1 million. In addition to capital improvement projects, residents saw their city taxes drop. Nichols is slated to receive at least an additional $1 million in taxes this year. Residents in the town of Tyre, which is the host of del Lago, is getting an average of $200,000 a month in taxes.

New York State imposes a tax of 37 percent on casinos’ gross gaming revenues, with the majority from each going to the town the property is closest to and the county that it’s in.