Casinos hope to ride out losing streak


DOVER — After a legislative session they judged as disappointing, casino executives are hoping their luck changes.

Whether that be as a result of a sudden influx of cash or welcome legislation, all top executives can do is keep up their lobbying efforts and cross their fingers.

Gaming officials discussed the situation Tuesday as they gathered at Dover Downs for the Video Lottery Advisory Council (VLAC).

Unfortunately for them, there was nothing new to discuss, a fact noted by Dover Downs President and CEO Ed Sutor.

 Dover Downs President and CEO Ed Sutor

Dover Downs President and CEO Ed Sutor

The state has seen slots revenue decline for 34 consecutive quarters, a timespan that goes back to 2007 and includes the most recent April to June period.

Dover Downs’ quarterly earnings are set to be released Thursday and all indications are they’re not particularly good.

Though he declined to provide specifics, Mr. Sutor said the casino plans further changes to hours of operation. Dover Downs stopped table games play from 2 to 8 a.m. for part of the week beginning in May. It has altered restaurant hours as well, Mr. Sutor said.

“We continue to take a look at absolutely every single restaurant, every operation, valet, hotel, wherever we can look at the volume and see if it makes sense to continue with those hours of operation,” he said.

A planned review of regulations to eliminate outdated or unnecessary statutes — a statewide cause championed by Gov. Jack Markell — is welcomed by the casinos, Mr. Sutor said.

While casino executives still harbor hope, they believe the 2016 opening of MGM casino in Maryland will siphon off more customers. Mr. Sutor noted a 50-cent increase in the minimum wage that went into effect in June also hurt Dover Downs.

The VLAC will meet again in September and November to draft a report containing recommendations for the General Assembly.

According to Mr. Sutor, it will likely include many of the same suggestions proposed last fall. The VLAC advised the General Assembly to cut the table game tax rate and implement marketing and capital credits.

Although a bill to those ends was introduced in January, it got nowhere in the legislature, particularly with the state facing budget challenges. Next year is expected to be tough as well, making it more unlikely relief is provided.

Mr. Sutor said he could not estimate the odds of helpful legislation next year, although he noted he was hopeful in 2015 but nothing got done.

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