Gambling revenue at Plainridge Park Casino tumbled by more than 5 percent in October, marking the slot parlor’s worst month since January.
The Plainville casino is attracting plenty of gamblers, with total bets up 20 percent from January. But it has also boosted its payouts, a calculated decision to forgo short-term revenue in hopes of building a durable customer base.
Last month, the casino delivered more wins per spin than it had since opening in June 2015. That meant happier players but lower profits.
When Plainridge first opened, the machines kept close to 10 cents per dollar, a figure known in the industry as the hold. But in October, it held just 7.2 percent of wagers. With total bets approaching $175 million, even small changes in the payout percentage has a substantial impact on revenues.
For example, the casino would have brought in an additional $5 million by retaining 10 percent of wagers. But increasing the hold risks driving away customers.
Plainridge must also pay 49 percent of revenue in state taxes.
“If the hold is about 7 percent and about half of that goes to the state right off the top, that doesn’t leave much to pay all the bills and still take a profit,” said Paul DeBole, an assistant political science professor at Lasell College in Newton and a specialist in gambling regulation.
DeBole described the latest revenue report as a “lackluster performance” for the casino, the state’s first.
DeBole said casinos typically lower their hold to “juice up” their slot machines, providing players enough wins to extend their gambling sessions. In September, Plainridge’s hold, 7.3 percent, was a good bit lower than either of the Connecticut casinos, Foxwoods Casino Resorts (just over 8 percent) and Mohegan Sun (8.28 percent). In recent months, all three casinos have pushed down their holds.
Penn National, the company that owns Plainridge Park Casino, declined to comment.
Plainridge took in $160 million in its first year, falling well short of forecasts. In the first four months of this fiscal year, revenue has fallen off 11 percent over the same span last year.
Plainridge enjoys a monopoly on slot machine gambling in Massachusetts, but Twin River Casino, a far larger facility in Lincoln, R.I., is just 10 miles away. The owners of Twin River Casino are also planning a new casino in Tiverton, R.I., right over the Massachusetts line from Fall River and about a 45-minute drive from Plainridge, after winning a statewide and local ballot measure on Nov. 8.
Construction is underway on a $2.1 billion Wynn Resorts casino in Everett and a $950 million MGM Resorts casino in Springfield.