Casinos' losses appear to be taverns' gains. The three Quad-City casinos last month took in $2,680,704 fewer dollars than they did in the previous month, gaming receipts show. Meanwhile, the money played on tavern and restaurant video-gaming machines in the Illinois Quad-Cities grew in September by $1,392,610 over the same period last year.
While many factors are at work, industry experts say, the leading cause of the decline in casino revenues is directly tied to the increasing popularity of non-casino gaming. The 18,412 video-game terminals that are in use by liquor-license holders across Illinois are making it convenient for gamblers to play the slots at a neighborhood tavern, rather than having to make a trip to a casino.
The statewide numbers tell the tale: Receipts are up from $376 million wagered in September 2013 to more than $715 million in September 2014.
"It's a regional trend," said Alan Silver, assistant professor at Ohio University and a casino expert. "Last month, Ohio (casinos) took a big hit, too.
"Any time you add more gaming ... it's going to have an impact."
He said the convenience factor also is at play in Ohio, where racinos (race track-casino combinations) now are common place in suburbs.
"Gambling is up across the country ... but it's not a good statistical measurement," Silver said. "It used to be you went to Atlantic City or Las Vegas to gamble. Now, you can get to gambling from just about anywhere within 40 miles."
While Jumer's Hotel and Casino in Rock Island continues to lead Isle of Capri, Bettendorf, and Davenport's Rhythm City in annual wagers, the month of September delivered Jumer's a $1,089,451 blow to the bottom line.
"Certainly (expanded gaming) plays a part in it," Jumer's representative Bill Renk said. "You need only to look at its receipts. Is that the only reason? Probably not. The major factor would have to be increased gaming. It's making it convenient for people who want to gamble.
"The economy is always a factor, too, though."
Silver said he has noted seasonal trends that affect gambling, including the end of summer, the return to school and a diminished disposable dollar.
In September 2013, Jumer's, Isle of Capri and Rhythm City casinos brought in a combined $16,182,296. This year, September produced receipts totaling $14,539,307.
The casino operators are not the only ones affected by the decline, especially in Iowa, where a portion of gaming dollars is distributed to designated nonprofits for community sharing. The Riverboat Development Authority, RDA, gets the money it distributes in twice-a-year grants from Rhythm City. The SCRA, or Scott County Regional Authority, collects its grant funds from Isle of Capri.
"We don't have a means to prepare" for the declines, SCRA Board President Heather Brummel said. "We just do our best to effectively manage our resources."
The RDA's president, Mary Ellen Chamberlin, said the outlook could be worse. She served on a governor's committee several years ago that looked into expanded gambling in Iowa, which included proposed slot machines in gas stations and grocery stores.
"We got rid of it," she said of the proposed expansion, dubbed TouchPlay. "You have to remember, Davenport is sitting on the same product it introduced in 1991."
But that is about to change.
The new owners of Rhythm City Casino hope to break ground on their land-based casino and hotel this month. The casino — and, in turn, the RDA — is expected to see an instant increase in profits.
"It's not only the honeymoon period," Chamberlin said of the business boon that hits new casinos. "Traditionally, land-based brings better receipts than a boat."
For the first three years the new Rhythm City is in operation, she said, the RDA will continue to collect the same percentage of revenues as it has in the past. The board agreed to lock into the rate, knowing more money will come, anyway, because more will be wagered, she said.
The RDA's guaranteed annual grant pool of $2 million was increased, however, to $2.5 million, beginning when the land-based casino opens.
"The SCRA patterned their policy after us, and we're the only two license holders (in Iowa) with a guarantee," Chamberlin said. "As for the decreases we're seeing right now, I really think we're still in a position where people are more reluctant to spend their disposable income.
"The way the decreases affect us, that's just what happens when you have one resource for funds. It's not like we have a market portfolio."