Friday, January 22, 1999

Riverboat revenues rose 40% in '98

Indiana now ranks 4th in gambling proceeds

The Associated Press

        INDIANAPOLIS — The opening of new casinos helped propel a 40 percent jump in revenue for Indiana's riverboats in 1998, pushing the state into fourth place nationally for money made from gambling, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

        The state's casinos won $1.34 billion from their customers, according to figures released Wednesday. Winnings in 1997 were $961.9 million.

        The whopping growth rate was fueled partly by the opening of new riverboats. But Indiana's six older riverboats, which have been open for more than two years, posted average revenue increases of 24 percent.

        The jump in revenues propels Indiana ahead of Louisiana in state-by-state rankings of gambling revenues. The Hoosier State probably ranks fourth nationally in casino revenues behind Nevada, Mississippi and New Jersey, said Jack Thar, the gaming commission's executive director.

        But the phenomenal growth isn't likely to last, Mr. Thar said.

        After three years, the industry is nearing maturity in Indiana and casino operators likely will have to settle for annual growth of around 10 percent or even less in the future, he said.

        There's probably not a lot of room left to increase the casinos' capacity, but that doesn't mean that growth can't continue to be robust, said Jennifer Simmons, executive director of the Casino Association of Indiana.

        While 40 percent growth is out of the question, the industry can keep growing by honing its marketing skills, she said.

        Part of the reason for 1998's high growth rate was that two riverboats, Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg and the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, replaced smaller, leased boats for new, larger ones in late 1997. Several other casinos also added pavilions on their top decks or found other ways to get more slot machines on board.


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