Dollars and sense at Harrah's

I have been fascinated by what is going on at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.

What is going on is that while the rest of the state is going great guns, revenue on the Chester waterfront has been down. It’s been that way since last summer.

In May revenue at Harrah’s was off 6 percent compared to the same month a year ago. The casino also dropped from its normal No. 2 spot behind only Philly Park in terms of casino revenue.

I have been puzzled as to why, and have addressed it several times in this space. My last writing on the issue carried a headline that probably did not accurately describe what is going on. I wish I could blame someone else, but I can’t. I write the headlines on my blog.

I wondered if maybe Harrah’s was crapping out. They’re not.

And several people called to let me know. Doug Harbach, from the Gaming Control Board, e-mailed me to let me know that Harrah’s still was doing better than the original projections for revenue at the casino.

Vince Donlevie, Harrah’s senior vice president and general manager, also noticed the blog, in particular the headline. He didn’t particularly care for it.

Hey, at least I know people are reading it. Sometimes I wonder about all this online business.

I will offer Donlevie’s response to my blog below.

On Friday, we were invited down to Harrah’s to talk to the new head of the state Gaming Control Board. Greg Fajt was touring some of the casinos. I thought maybe it would be a good opportunity to quiz him about what is going on at Harrah’s.

Fajt downplayed the dip in revenue, instead stressing the positive aspects of casino gaming in the state, in particular the reductions in property taxes. Can’t really blame him for that.

But I wonder about more and more gambling, and at what point we’ll reach the saturation point. Delaware is now preparing to dive into legalized sports gambling, as well as table games. Most observers believe it’s only a matter of time before table games arrive in Pa. Harrah’s actually on Friday rolled out an electronic version of a table game.

The Sands Bethlehem Casino has now opened its doors. Eventually two slots parlors will open in Philadelphia.

Finally, I got a legitimate explanation as to why Harrah’s was down. I won’t say where it came from, but I tend to believe him.

He believes that the actual amount of money wagered at Harrah’s is not down at all, but that the casino is spending a lot more money on promotional play to lure people into the casino.

Makes sense to me. Or should that be cents.


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