Wagering at Saratoga Casino & Raceway’s gaming machines has nearly doubled since the site first opened nine years ago, New York State Lottery records show.
The facility, the state’s first racetrack casino, opened with 1,324 video lottery terminals in January 2004.
In August 2004, the busiest month of the year, the site generated $8.4 million in net win — bets minus payouts — an average of $205 per machine.
Last August, the casino’s net win had grown to $15.6 million, averaging $283 per machine. The raceway now has 1,782 machines, 458 more than it had when it first opened, including a number of electronic table games in addition to VLTs.
Betting activity declined each month from August to December 2012, when net win was $11.5 million, an average of $208 per machine.
Also, numbers for December 2012 were down from December 2011 — $11.9 million, $216 per machine.
From September 2012 through December 2012, net win was basically flat, with a roughly $200,000 increase in 2012 numbers over 2011 ($49.4 million versus $49.2 million).
The state’s largest racetrack casino, Resorts World New York at Aqueduct, had $59.7 million in net win during December alone ($385 per machine), five times more than Saratoga. That facility has 5,005 gaming machines.
Resorts World, even without live dealers, has quickly become the largest-grossing casino in the country. More significantly, it has stemmed the tide of money leaving New York for out-of-state casinos that do have Las Vegas-style games, said James Featherstonhaugh, president of the New York Gaming Association.
While some people will always prefer table games with live dealers, today’s tech-savvy younger generation is more inclined toward electronic games. Industrywide, about one-third of gaming patrons prefer electronic gaming, a percentage that keeps growing every year, he said.
“And the electronic games improve every year,” Featherstonhaugh said. “They make some now that deal real cards.”
Saratoga Raceway’s casino has one electronic craps table game and two electronic roulette games. Each game may be played by 12 people at a time.
Featherstonhaugh said he believes racinos — racetrack casinos — could boost revenues significantly with other electronic table games, such as three-card poker and blackjack. However, they are not currently allowed by the state Lottery Division, which regulates video gaming.
As gambling has spread throughout the Northeast, people are less concerned now about live versus electronic games and put more priority on where casinos are located, Featherstonhaugh said.
Except for Las Vegas, an international resort destination, most people prefer sites within 50 miles of where they live.
“The trend now is convenience, regional gaming,” he said.