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Hancock County casino losing ground to Ohio, PA

CHESTER, W.Va. — At the same time profits at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort fell by 31 percent, adjusted earnings at the properties its parent company owns in Ohio and Pennsylvania grew by 11.7 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

For the entire year, Mountaineer’s profits collapsed from $30.4 million in 2014 to $21.3 million in 2015. Meanwhile, Scioto Downs near Columbus, Ohio expanded its earnings from $49.3 million to $54 million year-over-year. Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie, Pa. grew its profits from $19.4 million in 2014 to $20.3 million in 2015.

As a result of a 2014 corporate merger with the former MTG Gaming Group, Eldorado Resorts Inc. owns all three of these casinos, as well as properties in Nevada and Louisiana. Eldorado saw company-wide adjusted earnings grow 17.3 percent from the first quarter of 2015 to the first three months of 2016.

Last year, Mountaineer opened an outdoor smoking pavilion featuring more than 200 slot machines and table games to help mitigate anticipated negative impacts of Hancock County’s new smoking ban that went into effect July 1. The total number of slot machines in this outdoor area is now 305, while there are four table games in the pavilion.

Still, Mountaineer’s adjusted earnings from the first three months of 2015 to the first three months of this year dropped from $5.1 million to $3.5 million, reflecting a 31 percent decline.

“Overall, we believe our first quarter results continue to highlight the value of our long-term strategy to build shareholder value by leveraging our proven operating model into a diversified regional gaming entity with growing margins while building scale through accretive acquisitions,” Eldorado Chairman and CEO Gary Carano said.

For several years, Mountaineer and other West Virginia casinos have watched profits slide as new facilities opened, especially the Rivers Casino in downtown Pittsburgh and The Meadows Racetrack Casino near Washington, Pa.

The Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley Race Course that opened in Youngstown, Ohio in 2014 also affects the Chester track, which remains Hancock County’s largest employer. In addition to slot machines, table games and live entertainment, Mountaineer also offers thoroughbred racing, which industry leaders say supports hundreds of jobs in the Northern Panhandle.

In the first three months of this year, adjusted earnings at Scioto Downs reached $14.6 million, up from $13.1 million for the same time in 2015. At Presque Isle Downs, profits increased from $3.5 million in the 2015 first quarter to $4.8 million in the same period this year.

“Looking ahead, we have some exciting new (capital expenditure) projects underway,” Carano added. “These return-focused facility enhancement projects are consistent with our long-term commitment to enhance the player experience at our portfolio of properties while creating value for shareholders.”

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