Revenue at the metro-east's two casinos fell in January from the previous month and from a year earlier, as it did at most of the state's other casinos.
Meantime, video gambling at bars, veterans clubs, fraternal clubs and truck stops continued gaining steam. Statewide, the slot and video poker machines took about $9.78 million from players in January.
The Casino Queen in East St. Louis issued a statement saying January is a hit-or-miss month, and cold weather was a factor in its revenue drop of nearly 11 percent from the same month last year.
But John W. Kindt, a gambling expert at University of Illinois, said it's clear that video gambling machines at local establishments are starting to eat into casino profits. The slot and video poker machines at taverns, VFW halls, bowling alleys and similar joints have been active for only a few months, but many more are on the way.
"As you get more of these machines coming into everybody's backyard, it's going to cannibalize the revenue at the casinos," said Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy who has studied gambling for more than 20 years. "The studies all show that this will eventually happen, as these video gambling machines proliferate."
Adjusted gross revenue at the Casino Queen was $9.57 million in January, a 6.6 percent drop from the previous month's revenue of $10.26 million and a 10.7 percent drop from the January 2012 revenue of $10.72 million.
The Casino Queen's statement said the month of January can be "very volatile" in the St. Louis market.
"Casino Queen has experienced strong Januarys in certain years, like 2010 and 2012, when we exceeded expectations, and softer Januarys like 2011 and 2013, where we didn't reach expectations," the casino said. "Casino Queen has always been, and will continue to be, a consistent performer in the St. Louis gaming market. We have started certain years ahead of expectations and other years below expectations but due to our loyal customer base, Casino Queen meets or exceeds its performance indicators over the course of any given year."
At the Argosy Casino in Alton, January revenue was $5.28 million, down 3.5 percent from December revenue of $5.47 million and down 3.1 percent from January 2012 revenue of $5.45 million.
Combined, revenue at the state's 10 casinos was $123 million in January, a drop of 6.8 percent from December revenue of $132 million and down 3 percent from January 2012 revenue of $127 million.
The new video gaming machines at bars and other establishments had a net income, statewide, of $9.78 million in January. The video games' net income, statewide, was $7 million in December.
Video gaming went live in October, and the state continues to work through a backlog of applications from owners who want to install the machines at their bars and establishments. There were 2,290 machines online in December. There were 3,394 machines online in January.
In the metro-east, there were 35 establishments that had video-gaming licenses as of December, and another 315 were in the process of getting licensed. The machines at those 35 establishments had a combined net income of about $350,000 in December.
Kindt said the notion that video gaming machines at local establishments will hurt casino profits is "really a no-brainer. And these gambling machines are going to cannibalize not just the existing casino facilities, but also consumer dollars which are not then being used to buy cars, refrigerators, computers and other things."
At the casinos, there also has been a drop in the number of gamblers coming through the turnstiles.
The Casino Queen had about 130,000 admission in January, a drop of about 14.3 percent from the roughly 152,000 admissions in January 2012.
The Alton Belle had about 63,000 admissions in January, a drop of about 7.8 percent from the roughly 68,000 admissions in January 2012.
At the state's 10 casinos combined, admissions dropped about 4.9 percent, from roughly 1.23 millions visits in January 2012 to roughly 1.17 million visits last month.
The Casino Queen said in its statement: "One key indicator that affected this January was the colder weather. Another key indicator was the fact that our customers continue to enjoy the loosest slots in the country, and they won more to start this year, particularly at our tables, which are the best in the market."
The Casino Queen said it will not make any changes to its work force as a result of one month's performance.
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at email@example.com or 239-2511.