Hollywood Casino could have its best year yet, despite competition in Oxford

A dealer (left) places a ball on a spinning roulette table at Bangor's Hollywood Casino in March 2012.
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
A dealer (left) places a ball on a spinning roulette table at Bangor's Hollywood Casino in March 2012.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 08, 2012, at 3:19 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — In spite of its new competition to the south and a drop in the take from slot machines, Bangor’s Hollywood Casino is poised to surpass its revenue totals from last year, a feat management attributes to new offerings at the facility and marketing aimed at neighbors to the north.

The casino’s 923 slot machines are bringing in less than they did in previous years, with slot revenue dipping below $4 million in November for the first time since December 2008. In November, the slots netted less than $3.8 million.

The slots have brought in $52.6 million so far in 2012, with just December left to go. That’s about $2.5 million less than what the casino brought in by this time last year, according to revenue statistics from the Maine Gaming Control Board.

But Hollywood Casino has a new set of attractions that are closing the gap, according to General Manager John Osborne.

“Table-game revenue has really had some traction …,” Osborne said in a phone interview. “In most months, it replaced the loss of slot revenue.”

The table games, including blackjack, roulette, Lucky Ladies, and several poker variants, have brought in $5.9 million since they opened in March. The addition led the facility to change its name from Hollywood Slots to Hollywood Casino, as well as cut about 80 slot machines from the facility to make room for 16 table games.

“We see table games getting stronger yet in 2013,” Osborne said, explaining that the casino is adding a craps table this month.

Hollywood Casino is training its first crop of craps dealers, and will begin “phasing in” the game, which is among the more complicated at casinos, in the next month, according to Osborne. Most of the craps dealers are current employees taking a course, through Eastern Maine Community College, in craps dealing, he added.

With $58.5 million in net revenue with one month left to go in 2012, the casino, barring a severely dismal December, will surpass its $59.5 million yield from 2011. Osborne said he expects the facility to bring in about $4.5 million this month. If that holds true, it would mean a new revenue record for the casino, which set its high-water mark in 2010 of nearly $61.7 million in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Bangor casino’s new competitor to the south, Oxford Casino, also is pleased with its first six months of results, according to General Manager and Vice President Jack Sours.

“I think the facility has been very well received by the folks that are coming out,” Sours said in a Friday telephone interview, adding that 80 percent of the casino’s visitors are Mainers. “I think we’re very happy with the results we’ve seen here.”

Oxford Casino opened June 5 and since has netted $31.7 million, $26 million of which came from the slot machines. The casino now has 814 slots, up from the 529 it had in its first three months.

After four months of increasing revenues since it opened, the Oxford Casino’s revenue has begun to dip, which is typical as tourism tails off when winter approaches and people drive less, according to Sours. In its best month, September, the casino brought in $5.7 million.

In October, the casino increased its number of table games from 12 to 22.

Sours said the casino’s ownership is interested in building a hotel, a concept that waits near the end of the casino’s five-year plan.

“I think it’s still a work in progress,” Sours said, “and we need to see what the future brings.”

With its new competition from Oxford Casino just a 120-mile drive down I-95, Hollywood Casino has been trying to keep up its patronage by looking to the north.

General Manager John Osborne said the number of visitors coming from southern parts of the state has “slowed down a bit” in recent years, but that more people from Canada and northern Maine are making the trip to Bangor.

In years past, Canadian visitors accounted for 3 percent or 4 percent of casino revenue, according to Osborne; this year, however, they are contributing more than 10 percent.

Osborne credited the increase to advertising efforts in Canada, especially Nova Scotia, and marketing and promotions at the Bangor Mall aimed at Canadian bus tourists on shopping trips in Bangor.

The general manager said he believes the opening of the Cross Insurance Center on the other side of Main Street will draw more patrons and revenue. He also attributed some of the casino’s high yields during the spring and summer to the growth of the Waterfront Concert Series.

Hollywood Casino is owned by Penn National Gaming, which operates 29 gaming and hotel facilities across the country.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/12/08/business/hollywood-casino-could-have-its-best-year-yet-despite-competition-in-oxford/ printed on August 22, 2014