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LOUISIANA -- Not even hurricanes couldn't stop casino revenue from growing in Louisiana in 2005.
Despite the continued closure of four hurricane-devastated casinos and three months in which Louisiana's storm-ravaged riverboats and racinos reported significant revenue decreases, the state's gaming industry rebounded with a growth of 3 percent in overall gaming win during 2005.
For the year, Louisiana casinos collected $2.23 billion in gaming revenue, compared with $2.14 billion in 2004, according to figures released Tuesday by the state's gaming control board.
The increase came after the state was hammered during August and September by Gulf Coast hurricanes, namely Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29 and Hurricane Rita on Sept. 24. The storms all but shut down casinos in parts of Louisiana during those months.
In September, the state gaming's win was off 29.1 percent compared with the same month a year before.
However, by December the industry in Louisiana had rallied.
Gambling revenue from Louisiana's riverboats and racinos during the month was $207.9 million, a jump of 18.3 percent compared with $175.8 million in December 2004.
"Louisiana's performance in the wake of the hurricanes is impressive," Bear Stearns gaming analyst Joe Greff said in a note to investors. "Statewide results are receiving a strong boost from construction crews and other personnel in the region for the post-hurricane reconstruction. We think displaced gamblers from the Mississippi Gulf Coast are also driving growth."
The overall totals are also significant, Greff said, because the figure was reached without four months of gaming revenue from Harrah's New Orleans, the state's largest and only land-basd casino.
Harrah's New Orleans was closed by Hurricane Katrina and has not been able to reopen because of the subsequent flooding that devastated the city.
During the year, Harrah's New Orleans had gaming revenue of $229.4 million, a 28.3 percent dip from $320 million in 2004. The casino is expected to reopen next month in time for Mardi Gras.
"Despite a robust statewide performance, the Louisiana market remains challenging for Harrah's (Entertainment)," Greff said. The Las Vegas-based company operates three of the state's four closed casinos.
The big benefactor, gaming analysts said, was Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment, which operates three floating casinos in Louisiana.
The Pinnacle properties combined for more than $62.2 million in gaming revenue during December, almost 30 percent of the state's overall take of $207.9 million. During the year, Pinnacle's casinos combined for $401.3 million, almost 18 percent of the state's overall total gaming revenue of $2.23 billion.
"I think there's no question that Pinnacle will beat the earnings expectations for the fourth quarter," CRT Capital Group gaming analyst Steve Ruggiero said. "The company is really the big winner during this time."
Pinnacle shares fell 34 cents, or 1.27 percent, Tuesday to close at $26.46 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Pinnacle's L'Auberge du Lac in Lake Charles, which opened in May, had the state's highest single property gaming win total of $29.4 million in December. While Harrah's two Lake Charles riverboat casinos have been closed since late September due to damages from Hurricane Rita, the area still produced a gaming revenue increase of 61.8 percent in December.
"The whole market went to Pinnacle," Ruggiero said, adding that Mississippi-based Isle of Capri, which operates two riverboat casinos in Lake Charles, should have picked up more of the market.
Pinnacle's Boomtown New Orleans had the third-highest single-month gaming win in December, collecting $24.5 million, a 144 percent increase compared with $10 million a year ago.
For all of 2005, gaming revenue at Boomtown New Orleans grew to $148.6 million, a 27.4 percent increase compared with $116.6 million a year ago. The figure was also reached despite the casino being closed all of September and for parts of August and October.
Pinnacle's third casino, Boomtown Bossier City, reported gaming revenue of $8.3 million in December, a 5.6 percent increase.
Boyd Gaming Corp.'s Treasure Chest casino in New Orleans also had a strong December, reporting $16.1 million in gaming revenue during the month, a 72.3 percent increase compared with $9.3 million in December 2004.
LOUISIANA GAMING REVENUE
Casinos operated by Nevada-based companies (in millions)
Compares December 2005 with December 2004
December All of 2005
Harrah's Pride $0.0 -100 percent $70.6 -33.2 percent
Harrah's Star $0.0 -100 percent $35.5 -29.8 percent
L'Auberge du Lac (Pinnacle) $29.4 (n/a) $151.6 (n/a)*
Delta Downs (Boyd) $12.2 +13.8 percent $130.1 +0.2 percent
Boomtown Bossier (Pinnacle) $8.3 +5.6 percent $101.1 -4.3 percent
Horseshoe (Harrah's) $25.9 +30.5 percent $256.4 +2.8 percent
Sam's Town (Boyd) $11.5 +2.1 percent $137.9 -10.9 percent
Harrah's Louisiana Downs $8.8 +0.1 percent $101.3 +18.8 percent
Harrah's New Orleans $0.0 -100 percent $229.4 -28.3 percent
Boomtown (Pinnacle) $24.5 +144 percent $148.6 +27.4 percent
Treasure Chest (Boyd) $16.1 +72.3 percent $118 +5.8 percent
Overall State Total $207.9 +18.3 percent $2.23 +3 percent
*L'Auberge du Lac opened in May 2005.
SOURCE: Louisiana Gaming Control Board
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