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Casino revenue booming despite nation's recession

Thursday, December 13, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Missouri casinos have been booming lately, defiant of a nationwide recession.

More popular slot machines, a reluctance to travel, and fewer jobs statewide are among the factors being cited for the increase in money left behind by gamblers.

The state's casinos collected 19.6 percent more last month than they did in November 2000, according to monthly figures released by the Missouri Gaming Commission.

Subtracting from the equation the new Mark Twain Casino in La Grange, which opened in July, gamblers still left behind 16.8 percent more than they did last November.

"Organized gaming's been in Missouri for over seven years now, and to have nearly 20 percent growth after that long is quite amazing," said Jim Oberkirsch, chief financial analyst for the commission.

The big gains can be traced to a similar jump in what the casinos call "win per patron."

The term is misleading, because it actually refers to the average amount of money lost by each casino visitor.

Oberkirsch said the casinos are prospering largely because of newer, flashier slot machines that are paying out a lower percentage of the take.

And more machines accept bills in addition to coins, a feature that gamblers are becoming more comfortable with, he said. The numbers point firmly toward the slots, which collected 23.6 percent more last month than they did in November 2000.

The tables collected 0.7 percent less.

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