Casino and slot parlor activity rebounds to pre-pandemic levels

Massachusetts

BOSTON (SHNS) – By any metric, March was the best month for the casinos and slots parlor in Massachusetts since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The slots parlor at Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor jointly generated $83.957 million in gross gaming revenue last month, yielding just more than $23.92 million in taxes and fees for the state, the Gaming Commission announced on Thursday. That’s more than the state has collected from its three gaming licensees since February 2020, when gaming generated more than $24.32 million for the state’s coffers.

The two casinos and one slots parlor are operating under a Gaming Commission formula that determines maximum capacity based on the number of gaming positions, number of employees and other factors, capped at 40 percent of their maximum capacity. The revenues announced Thursday likely reflect the impact of the commission’s March 11 decision to allow the casinos to reintroduce craps and to add a fourth seat at many table games.

Gamblers put $165.4 million into the machines at the Plainville slots parlor last month, more than any month since June 2019. The house kept 7.39 percent of all slot wagers, resulting in about $12.23 million in gross monthly revenue, the highest total for Plainridge since July 2019. That revenue, taxed at a rate of 49 percent, generated $5.99 million in taxes and fees for state government.

March, by some measures, was also the best month on record for MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor.

The western Massachusetts casino saw players put $215.57 million into its slots last month, surpassing the record set in March 2019 by about $12 million. MGM kept $18.06 million or 8.38 percent of the money that went into its slots last month as revenue and added another $4 million in table game revenue for a total of $22.06 million in March.

The state’s two resort casinos are subject to a 25 percent tax on their monthly gross gaming revenue. The $22.06 million in revenue that MGM counted last month works out to about $5.52 million in state taxes.

Encore Boston Harbor generated more than half of the state’s gross gaming revenue last month — $49.67 million, more than any month since February 2020.

The Everett casino’s slots machines generated a monthly record for revenue of $29.27 million from $337.48 million in bets, the greatest amount of money pumped into the slots at Encore since August 2019. The table games at Encore generated about $20.4 million in March, more than any month since February 2020.

In total, state government can expect to collect about $12.42 million in taxes from Encore’s March performance.

Since legalizing gambling in 2011, Massachusetts has collected $743.05 million in gaming revenues — about $414.26 million from Plainridge Park, almost $136.39 million from MGM and about $192.41 million from Encore Boston Harbor.

Based on historic monthly averages, Massachusetts can expect about $249.65 million in average annual gaming revenue.

When expanded gaming was a topic of debate on Beacon Hill a decade ago, proponents like Treasurer Steven Grossman and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll representing the Coalition for Jobs and Growth said the state could count on about $400 million in annual taxes from the casinos and slots parlor. Those projections assumed the state would license all three full-scale casinos authorized under the law, but the Gaming Commission has never issued the third and final casino license designated for the southeastern region of the state.

Executives from MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor said before the pandemic that their properties were still building up to their full revenue-generating power. They have since had to deal with a months-long shutdown, capacity restrictions, limits on the games they can offer and a vastly different economy.

The Executive Office of Administration and Finance said Thursday that the fiscal year 2021 budget projects that the state will collect $226.2 million from the casinos and slots parlor for the budget year that ends July 1.

Gambling halls have been open for eight-and-a-half of the nine months of fiscal 2021 and the state has so far collected about $160.71 million. If the remaining three months of gaming revenue come in at exactly the historic monthly average of $20.8 million in taxes and fees, the state would be on track to collect $223.11 million in gaming revenue this fiscal year.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal year 2022 budget, proposed in January, estimates an 11 percent increase in gaming revenue over the fiscal 2021 projection — a total of $251.1 million, the governor’s budget office said. That breaks down to $135.4 million from Encore Boston Harbor, $55.5 million from MGM Springfield and $60.2 million from Plainridge Park Casino.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which released its own fiscal year 2022 budget recommendation Wednesday, said it used the same assumptions as Baker’s budget, but did not have a more detailed breakdown available.

Before the pandemic took hold, Baker’s initial fiscal 2021 budget plan estimated $283 million in revenue from gaming, a 3.75 percent decline from the gaming revenue total of $294 million assumed in the fiscal 2020 budget.

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