Study: Pa. slots among East's richest

January 14, 2008 3:34:43 AM PST
Slot machines in Pennsylvania are in high demand, with four of the state's casinos placing in the top five on the East Coast for slots revenue, according to a new report.

"Pennsylvania has been very strong right out of the box," said Joe Weinert, vice president for Spectrum Gaming, a casino research firm, told The Morning Call of Allentown for Sunday editions.

In the group's latest report, being released Monday, Pennsylvania casinos held four of the top five spots on the East Coast for money grossed per slot machine in fall 2007.

According to the report, the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs generated $403 per slot machine per day between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, 2007, more than any other East Coast casino.

The Mohegan Sun in Connecticut came in second at $390 per machine, followed by three Pennsylvania casinos: Philadelphia Park at $369 per machine, the Meadows at $347 per machine and Harrah's Chester at $322 per machine.

The industry's target for slot machine profits is, on average, $250 to $300 per machine per day, according to Weinert. In that range, the casino has enough machines to accommodate demand, without having too many and adding to overhead costs.

Pennsylvania casinos would need to add more machines to hit that range, and many are doing so. Also, just six of 14 planned casinos statewide have opened - several in smaller, temporary structures.

The Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs opened in November 2006 with 1,110 machines, expanded to 1,203 machines and now plans to grow to 2,500 machines with the opening of its permanent facility late this summer.

Pennsylvania's slots parlors are licensed for up to 5,000 machines, but may never hit that number to avoid saturating the market.

At the busiest casinos, such as Mohegan Sun near Wilkes-Barre, some patrons avoid gambling during peak hours: after 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Pocono Downs spokesman Jim Wise said waits can occur for popular games. Such demand may be frustrating to gamblers but it is good for the industry, he said.

"We have strong play," said Wise, calling it "a major positive."

In 2007, Pennsylvania's six operating slots parlors generated about $353.3 million for property tax relief. Gov. Ed Rendell has predicted that once all 14 casinos are operating, they will generate $1 billion for property tax relief.

Information from: The Morning Call,