Gambling revenue at Plainridge Park slides again in November
Gambling revenue at Plainridge Park Casino dropped significantly in November, marking the fourth straight monthly decline since the facility opened on June 24.
In November, the casino pulled in $11.9 million, down by about $1 million from October and by about $6 million since July, the casino’s first full month of operation.
State officials were counting on Plainridge to generate $128 million in annual tax revenue, but based on the weaker-than-expected monthly haul from the slots parlor they have recently lowered that projection to $78 million.
Casino specialists say that revenue at most new gambling venues drops off in the months after a gala opening. Even so, the downturn in revenue at Plainridge has cast a darker pall over the nascent Casino Era in Massachusetts.
Of three resort casinos allowed under the 2011 state casino law, only two are in development. It remains unclear whether the state Gaming Commission will issue a license for Southeastern Massachusetts. And both of the projects that are underway — MGM in Springfield and Wynn Resorts in Everett — have been delayed, with the earliest opening now expected no sooner than 2018.
Even with the falloff in Plainridge revenue, the state is still reaping a considerable benefit from the casino. Since Plainridge’s grand opening, the state has collected almost $38 million from the facility, based on the 49 percent tax rate. Most of that tax revenue, $30 million, goes to aid to towns and cities. The casino law also requires that a sizable chunk — $8 million since June — go to prop up what’s left of the state’s horse-racing industry.
In Springfield, MGM is pledging to spend nearly $1 billion turning 14 acres of the city’s tornado-ravaged South End into a massive casino and hotel complex, but it faces a possible challenge from across the state line in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s two Native American tribes, with the support of the state of Connecticut, are pursuing plans to quickly open a casino near Hartford along Interstate 91. The plan is explicitly intended to undercut MGM, which has said it expects about one-third of its customers to come from the Hartford area.
That plan by the tribes that already operate Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun has been initially approved by the state General Assembly but requires a second vote early next year. MGM has hired former attorney general Eric Holder’s law firm, and one of the state’s premier lobbying firms, to aggressively oppose the plan.
In Everett, Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn last month won a major victory when a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the City of Boston to block the planned $1.7 billion casino. But Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has not indicated whether he intends to appeal that decision.
Located off Interstate 95 near the Rhode Island border, Plainridge was supposed to stop the stream of Massachusetts gamblers headed for Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.
But Rhode Island budget analysts, who had initially lowered their expectations because of the competition from Plainridge, last month added $35 million in overall projected slot machine revenue at Twin River. One official recently said in an interview that Twin River had “blunted the impact” of Plainridge’s opening.
In a statement issued on Monday, Plainridge called for patience.
“Plainridge Park Casino, and the gaming market here in the Commonwealth, is in the earliest phases of its development,” the statement read. “It is important to be disciplined in drawing clear conclusions until the Massachusetts market has more fully matured.”