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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Catching Up With National Gaming News

26 December 2000

Remember all that talk a couple of years ago about possible legislation to bring slot machines into the Chicago-area horse racing tracks? Well, judging from the latest figures from tracks around the country that do have them, maybe, at least from the player's perspective, it's a good thing it never got very far! For horse racing interests, it's a different story.

Delaware Park in Dover, Delaware, reported an incredible $23.9 million win (takeout) on its slot operations in the latest reporting month. Since the track has 1,886 slot machines, that means the daily win per machine came to $422. At a takeout rate of 7.37% (92.63% payback), the average unit, therefore, handled $5,731 per day.

If you want to know how $422 daily win per slot machine at Delaware Park stacks up against the state of Nevada, the gaming capital of the world, check out these figures: Downtown Las Vegas: $82 per unit; Las Vegas Strip: $109 per unit; Laughlin: $119 per unit; Reno: $91 per unit; Lake Tahoe: $87 per unit; North Las Vegas: $79 per unit.

In other words, the average slot machine in place at Delaware Park earned about four times as much as the average slot machine in Nevada. There are similar statistics from other race tracks around the country with slot operations.

Delaware's other tracks racked up some mighty impressive numbers as well. Dover Downs raked in $15.4 million from its 2,000 slots, while Harrington, a relatively small track on the horse racing scale, recorded a $6.6 million win on its 747 slots, a daily win per unit of $294.

Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, reported a monthly slot win of $11.8 million from its bank of 1,300 machines, an average daily win per unit of $311. Iowa's Bluff's Run had a $10.2 million win from 1,250 slots, a daily average of $272, while Dubuque, a dog racing track, showed $3.2 million on 600 slot machines, an average daily win of $177.

(Note: Wouldn't it be great to own just a 10% share of just one machine for a year? Dream on...)

What do the numbers mean and why do they dwarf those of Nevada's casinos? For one thing, there are many, many more slot machines located in each of the reporting jurisdictions in Nevada. The average is bound to be somewhat diluted when compared to the tracks, which have a smaller number of machines confined to a significantly smaller space.

The average daily per unit handle of $5,731 means that the machines are pretty much in constant use, and a lot of money is being churned through each one. If each of the tens of thousands of machines located on the Las Vegas Strip, for example, maintained a similar daily average, the win figure for each unit would also get a boost. Slot machine play is spread out over many more machines.

The fact of the matter remains that the 93.67% payback on slot machines at Delaware Park is less than the average theoretical payback on the slot machines found in most riverboat casino destinations in the Chicago area. It's probably just as well slot players have the option of going to eight riverboat casino locations in the area, including Northwest Indiana, rather than being held captive within the confines of a race track.

The horse racing programs at the tracks that have passed slot machine legislation have received significant boosts, both in the quality of the horses and the size of the purses. If the legislation to construct a casino in Rosemont, Illinois ever gets over its legal tangles, horse racing in this state will also be the beneficiary of some monetary assistance.

Finally, could coinless slot machines be just around the corner? They are the rage at the Barona Casino, a Native American property located in California. A $30 million expansion at the location houses 700 slot machines, all of which accept and pay through a common voucher-in/voucher-out, system. The floor cashiers are even equipped with high-tech "Palm Pilots" so that players can immediately receive their winnings.

(Note: It must be a very quiet without the constant din of coins cascading into metal trays and plastic buckets. I think I'd almost miss the noise. How about you?)

I have always reasoned that the sounds of coins is a lure that casinos owners like to tickle the ears of their patrons with. Also, the traditional avalanche of coins at the sound of the jackpot bells is something that slot players live for.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp