Gambling revenue at Massachusetts casinos continued to fall short of expectations in September, another signal that the state’s gambling industry has not yet lived up to the rosy outlook offered by casino operators when they were seeking approval to open their doors here.
Overall revenue at the Encore Boston Harbor casino came in at $49 million in its third full month of operation, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, down from a haul of $52.5 million in August. Table game revenue dropped to $27.1 million in September, though slots revenue actually rose to $21.9 million — its best month so far in that category.
Richard McGowan, a gambling expert who teaches at Boston College, said the numbers from Encore and around the state so far suggest that Massachusetts should not count on much more monthly gambling revenue than what it is getting now,
“I would imagine we’ve pretty much plateaued,” McGowan said. “Basically, this market is not going to grow anymore. If anything, it’s going to shrink.”
But he added that the introduction of sports betting could potentially provide a boost.
State lawmakers are discussing whether to allow people to bet on athletic contests but have not reached a decision after more than a year of debate. Casino operators say sports betting could potentially draw in patrons — although it is not likely to account for big revenue on its own.
Encore has brought in $166.8 million since it opened June 23, paying $41.7 million in state taxes. But the total has been smaller than expected.
Wynn Resorts, which owns Encore, told state regulators in 2014 that it expected to take in more than $800 million in gross gaming revenue during its first year. If the numbers stay on their current pace, they will come in substantially below that figure for a 12-month period.
In Western Massachusetts, the MGM Springfield casino’s monthly revenue dropped to $19.9 million in September — its slowest month since January and a significant decline from last September, when it collected nearly $27 million in its first full month of operation.
The casino, which has been struggling to draw customers from competing casinos in Connecticut, has brought in $293.7 million since it opened in August 2018 and has contributed about $73.4 million in tax revenue to the state. MGM’s initial estimates had projected that it would bring in more than $400 million in its first year.
“We continue to maintain strong volumes and visitation despite increased competition,” MGM Springfield president Michael Mathis said in a statement. He cited crossover trade from The Big E expo held annually nearby, along with food truck events, concerts, and performances around the casino.
“Our dynamic casino promotions made winners of many of our guests through free gift giveaways, slot tournaments, and car jackpots,” Mathis said.
Plainridge Park Casino, the slots-only facility in Plainville, took in $11.5 million in September, its lowest gambling revenue figure since 2015, the year that it opened.
Paul DeBole, a Lasell University professor who follows the state’s gambling industry closely, said Plainridge nonetheless remains healthy. He calculated that the 1,250-machine facility is taking in about $308 per machine, per day, which is higher than at Encore or MGM.
“They’re still cleaning everybody’s clock” when it comes to slots, he said.
DeBole said it’s still too early to say whether the state’s gambling industry can meet its heady projections.
“It depends on the promotion; it depends how they market it,” he said. “It depends on a lot of factors.”