Slot machines have always been viewed as a guaranteed money-maker for casinos. They’re easy to play, always attract a lot of attention and don’t require full-time staff like table games do. However, more casinos have opted to reduce their slot complement since COVID-19 came in, and the Wind Creek Bethlehem in Pennsylvania is joining this group. It has submitted a request to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to reduce its slot count by 655 from 2,973 and 2,318.
Wind Creek to Scuttle Slots
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama owns the casino. In a filing it submitted last Thursday, it explained that it wants to reduce the number of permanent slots machines based on lower utilization to provide a better experience for patrons. This is done taking into consideration the increased desire for social distancing and no anticipated negative impact on revenue to the state.
The Wind Creek request follows similar ones that were filed and approved last year by four others. Harrah’s Philadelphia, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Hollywood Casino at Penn National, and Hollywood Casino at The Meadows have removed or are currently removing 1,201 one-armed bandits.
Wind Creek officials are expected to present their reasons to the PGCB at its monthly meeting. The tribe asserts that the reduction will have minimal impact on revenue. This is because 54% of the revenue from slots is taxed by the state, which is an indirect partner in the industry.
Slots Produce Big Money for Wind Creek
Although the recent attention on Pennsylvania’s gambling industry has been focused on the rise in revenue from online betting and sports betting, operators still make the most money with traditional slot machines in brick-and-mortar casinos.
According to the PGCB’s year-end revenue report, the 26,000 machines that were in operation at the state’s 16 casinos netted $2.29 billion. Wind Creek was among the bigger attractions. Parx Casino made $409.4 million from 3,042 slot machines, generating $265 million in revenue. Wind Creek was second with $265 million.
Some operators have had to reduce the number of machines they used to maintain a constant level of operation. They were forced to temporarily reduce their machines in 2020 as capacity limits and social distancing came in due to COVID-19. However, in many cases, the casinos found that they could still make as much or almost as much revenue while also reducing overhead costs and maintaining the machines.
Wind Creek already knows what it will do with the space if the PGCB approves the reduction. It wants to expand its live poker room, which currently occupies a smaller space because of COVID-19.
The casino has applied for approval to move its poker room into a larger space at the former Burgers and More. As part of the overall expansion of the gaming floor to 156,548 square feet, 2,566 more than the current allocation, the poker room will expand from 14 to 20 tables and include a satellite cage.