Optimism Remains For Bounce-Back Despite February Dip In Louisiana Gambling Revenue

Posted on March 26, 2021

While COVID-19 statistics may be headed in the right direction, Louisiana gaming revenue lags behind.

The latest figures from the state’s casinos, racetracks and video lottery terminals are no cause for jubilation.

Numbers in all three categories are down from a year ago. The combined $204.7 million in revenue represents a nearly 24% drop from 2020.

There are some reasons for optimism, though. And it’s not just about waning coronavirus statistics. It’s more of a combination of factors.

The latest Louisiana gaming revenue figures

The latest numbers out of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board show a decline of almost a quarter as compared to February 2020. The $204.7 million from all the aforementioned sources breaks down like this:

  • $112.4 million from riverboat casinos
  • $53.6 million from VLTs
  • $22.9 million from slot machines at racetracks
  • $15.8 million from Harrah’s New Orleans

The total is 23.4% lower than the same month last year. The greatest drop came at the state’s only land-based casino, Harrah’s New Orleans. That facility held nearly $11 million, or almost 41%, less than it did in February 2020.

Video lottery terminals (VLTs) across the state took the lightest hit in the same comparison. Their February 2020 total was just about $1.3 million higher than February 2021 totals. That category is actually where the hope for recovery begins. Looking at the year-to-date total, that amount is actually up about 7.3% as compared to the first two months of 2020.

That isn’t enough to stave off an overall decline in cumulative annual performance, however. In total, $440.5 million through January 2021 and February 2021 is still down about 14.5% when compared with the same two months last year.

So, is it time for gambling operators in Louisiana to spend on marketing to avoid further losses? Actually, there might be factors that push patrons back through their doors without any effort on the operators’ part.

Consumer comfort could be on the rise

Reading from the positive VLT growth, it’s possible to infer that Louisianans might feel more comfortable in that setting because it’s a smaller venue as compared to casinos and racetracks. Fewer people around means less potential exposure to COVID-19.

If that’s what has drawn Louisiana gamblers to VLTs, then it’s good news for the other players in this drama. The Louisiana Department of Health reports a steady decline in total cases of coronavirus in the state since mid-January. It also notes that as much as 16.75% of the population in certain regions have been vaccinated.

Should those trends continue, it’s likely that more Louisianans will feel more comfortable in larger settings. Casinos and slot rooms at racetracks could benefit from that. Additionally, improving COVID-19 metrics might sway Gov. Jon Bel Edwards to loosen restrictions on those facilities. Right now, they’re still under a 50% of fire code capacity limit.

The other factor that could work in favor of gambling companies is the weather. As the mercury rises, the same effect tends to manifest in gamblers’ interests. To what degree that will be the case remains to be seen this spring and summer, but it’s typical for casinos across the country.

After turning in a 2020 performance that was nearly $100 million less than 2019, renewed customer confidence couldn’t be more sorely needed than it is now for Louisiana gaming establishments. The good news is that help could be on the way.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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