Racino revenue falls off pace

Saturday, January 28th 2006, 3:18 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state finance director is drastically reducing expectations of making money from Oklahoma's casino industry.

Tribal and racetrack casinos had been projected to produce nearly $53 million this year for education programs.

State Finance Director Claudia San Pedro recently lowered that figure to $19.7 million.

Next year's projections also are considerably lower than San Pedro's predecessor, Scott Meacham, had estimated.

Problems arose when the state's three racino's opened later than expected; vendors were slow to make the new machines that meet Oklahoma's unique specifications; tribes were slow to install them; and in some cases, customers haven't taken to them.

Another factor has been the dismal casino performance at Blue Ribbon Downs. The state estimated that each machine would make $250 a day after paying winners. Last month, the average there was $45 per day.

Three racetrack casinos were expected to produce $12.3 million in state revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30. San Pedro lowered it to $4.7 million.

The three racetrack casinos last month generated $529,773, about half as much as expected.

From the tribal casino industry, earlier projections called for $40.5 million this year. The new projections are for $15 million this year and $33.4 million next year.

Of the state's share of tribal and racetrack casino revenues, 88 percent goes to common education. The other 12 percent goes to a program that pays college tuition costs for students whose parents make less than $50,000 a year.

San Pedro said of the three racinos, Remington Park has the best shot at hitting the state's earlier revenue projection, which was $275 a day for each of that track's 650 machines.

That track's machines actually made $218 a day in December, its first full month of operations.

``The truth is, no one knows,'' Remington Park General Manager Scott Wells said Friday of projections. ``They came in all over the place because this is a unique situation.

``A key point to remember is that between Thanksgiving and the end of the winter is always the slowest period for any casino,'' he said.

Wells said attendance will climb when racing starts March 10.