Monthly gambling revenues at the Encore Boston Harbor casino rose modestly in August, as bettors flocked to craps tables and poker games at the glimmering Everett resort. But the casino continued to struggle to draw players to slot machines, which hurt Encore’s performance.
Encore told state gaming regulators that it brought in $52.5 million in gambling revenue during its second full month of operation, an increase of almost $4 million over July. But slot machine revenue dropped by nearly $1 million, highlighting a challenge gambling operators have faced across the region as more competitors have entered the market.
Plainridge Park Casino, the Plainville slots parlor, reported its weakest month in more than two years, with just over $12 million in slots revenue, according to data released Monday by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
“There appears to be some degree of saturation in the regional gaming market, and how long that saturation continues, and how it’s going to finally shake out in terms of consumer taste and sentiment remains to be seen,” said Lasell University professor Paul DeBole, who follows the industry. “But I think the slot numbers should cause a reasonable person to have concern.”
The results add to what has been a somewhat disappointing revenue picture from an industry that has promised to be a substantial source of state revenue. The MGM Springfield casino has reported $273.8 million in revenue since it opened late last August. The company had initially projected that it would take in more than $400 million in its first year.
Wynn Resorts, which owns the Encore, told state regulators in 2014 that it expected to take in more than $800 million in gross gaming revenue in its first year. Though there’s still plenty of time for the currents to shift, the returns so far put the facility on pace to come in well below that number.
The figures, however, do buttress what industry observers say is a positive signal for Encore: revenue from table games — the province of big spenders that casinos yearn to attract — continues to be healthy.
Encore president Bob DeSalvio said in an update to the Gaming Commission last week that Encore is looking for ways to address the “soft” slots revenue, perhaps by swapping out less popular machines.
Nonetheless, he said he is confident that Encore will be able to compete for the region’s gamblers.
“We have folks who are living around our area who used to travel out of state, and they’re now starting to enjoy their hometown casino, which is exactly what we hoped would happen,” DeSalvio said.
Across the state in Springfield, the $960 million MGM resort casino has struggled to attract gamblers away from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and has cut its payroll by hundreds of people since it opened. MGM says it still has about 2,300 workers in Springfield, a city that is counting on the casino as an economic development bulwark.
In a statement Monday, MGM Springfield president Michael Mathis maintained that August was a good month for the casino, with a half-million visitors and a run of four sold-out Aerosmith shows. Mathis also said he is optimistic about the addition of a new bar with video poker machines along with a new stadium gaming setup.
“As our second year of operation begins, we look forward to the opportunities ahead reaffirming our commitment to the community and Commonwealth through a robust calendar of events, exciting concerts, eclectic dining, dynamic casino promotions, and world-class guest services synonymous with MGM Resorts,” Mathis said.
The opening of the Encore has not had an obvious effect on MGM’s returns. Its gross gaming revenues have risen slightly since June, to about $21 million. Its strongest month was last September, the first full month of operation, when it took in close to $27 million.
But the Encore has become a significant new draw in the Boston area, even if the gambling traffic is modest by the lofty standards Wynn set in pursuit of its license.
As the weekend began Friday afternoon, patrons shuffled in from shuttle buses and free ferry rides from Boston, while others emerged from the facility’s massive parking garage.
The poker tables were noisy with the clatter of chips, the craps tables were hosting a lively game, and a large group converged at the baccarat tables. Activity at the slot machines was slower, as patrons dotted the rows of flashing terminals.
DeSalvio told the Gaming Commission last week that he was satisfied with the opening of the casino, which began operations on June 23.
“We said we wanted flawless. I’m not sure there is such a thing, but we came pretty close,” he said. DeSalvio added that a lot remains to be done: “We are in the ramp-up mode, as most new operations would be at this point in time,” he said.