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U.S. Casino Industry Could be on Road to Recovery;
Rate of Revenue Declines Slows

eg Hack, The Kansas City Star, Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 19, 2009--The U.S. casino business, hit by double-digit revenue declines in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J., hopes it's on the road to recovery.

And the Kansas City casino market, whose drop in business wasn't nearly so steep, could already be on the way back. Combined revenues from its four casinos rose 7.5 percent in October compared with a year ago, to nearly $60.4 million.

"One month doesn't make a trend," said Troy Stremming, senior vice president at Ameristar. "But we are seeing some promising signs."

Industry leaders are in Las Vegas this week for their annual Global Gaming Expo. The numbers in front of them, including a 5.5 percent drop in third-quarter casino revenue nationwide, haven't turned positive yet.

But the rate of revenue decline has slowed way down, giving many in the business hope as the U.S. economy picks up.

"We may be turning a corner," Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president and chief executive of the American Gaming Association, told the convention. "I use the word 'may' very advisedly."

Stremming said regional markets such as Kansas City and the rest of Missouri have fared better, in part, because they weren't so dependent on big conventions and long-distance travelers.

Missouri's dozen casinos reported that their combined revenue in October was up 11 percent from a year ago, to nearly $131 million. It helped that the month had a fifth Saturday, unlike October 2008, but the increase also followed a solid September, when revenue statewide was up 6.8 percent.

In the Kansas City market, October's rising tide lifted all boats.

Argosy and Isle of Capri have taken in more money every month this year compared with the same months in 2008, and they continued their winning streak. Argosy's winnings -- and thus its gamblers' losses -- rose 6 percent from last October, to $16.5 million. Isle of Capri took in 8 percent more revenue, to $6.77 million.

The area's biggest-revenue casino, Ameristar, had seen its take slip six of the first eight months of this year, compared with 2008. But it gained 5 percent in October, to $19.8 million, on top of a 2 percent gain in September.

The biggest reversal came for Harrah's, which had suffered year-over-year revenue declines most months this year and fallen well behind Argosy in the battle for No. 2 behind Ameristar. Harrah's revenue jumped 12 percent from last October, to $17.3 million, putting it back ahead of Argosy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Copyright (c) 2009, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

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