MGM crippled; Illinois & Indiana report; Bally’s shaky in Chi

Different day, same story for MGM Resorts International, brought to its knees by a cbyer-assault of still-unknown provenance. The FBI has been brought in although, per standard operating procedure, the G-Men aren’t commenting on what went down. MGM is daintily referring to the attack as a “cyber issue,” but its 28 casinos nationwide may face a long road back to recovery. UNLV‘s Yoowhan Kim is of the firm opinion that it was a ransomware raid that MGM was asked for “several million dollars” to resolve the ‘issue,’ one that may have been years in the making. Kim delicately implies that a cost/benefit analysis will come down in favor of paying up.

Adds College of Southern Nevada boffin Arthur Salmon, “Their security team has to be right 100 percent of the time … The attacker just has to be right once.” The Las Vegas Sun reports that the perpatrators may have been exceptionally painstaking: “Hackers are known to spend time doing research, going as far as tracking down the name of an employee’s dog that could be part of a password or digging through trash for paperwork with sensitive data, Kim said.” The moral of this story, if there is one, is to ask for a physical room key when you come to Las Vegas—and carry lots of cash, just in case.

Both advocates and detractors of expanded gambling in Illinois had grist for their respective mills last month, although the August gambling gross of $124 million was overshadowed by last weekend’s casino opening in Chicago. Revenues were up 6%, so advocates can claim vindication for their formula that more casinos = more money. Then again, Tom Swoik and other expansion opponents will surely point to a 4% decline in same-store revenues as evidence of saturation. As J.P. Morgan analyst Joseph Greff cautions, “Recall that on August 25th, Walkers Bluff opened a casino in Carterville, while on May 27th, Golden Nugget opened a casino in Danville, and Full House Resorts opened in February.” That’s a great deal of new product hitting the Land of Lincoln even before the Windy City enters the lists. He added that, compared to 2019, revenue was up 5.5% … but down 9% on a year-over-year basis. Let the arguments commence.

Looking at a strictly 2023 vs. 2023 comparison, only a handful of casinos came out ahead, chief among them Hard Rock Rockford ($5.5 million), vaulting 21%. The Temporary at American Place gained some ground, to $8 million, while all the established Chicagoland casinos were hurting. Rivers Des Plaines grossed a daunting $45 million but ceded 7.5%, presumably to Waukegan. Next-closest was Grand Victoria at $12 million, down 7%. Full House CEO Dan Lee has been making the case that the existing riverboats are archaic and user-hostile, and players seemed to agree with him last month. Hollywood Joliet made but $7 million (-8%) and Hollywood Aurora $7.5 million (-5%). Meanwhile, Harrah’s Joliet slid 9.5% to $10.5 million. Full House isn’t winning the battle but it’s stockpiling ammo.

Elsewhere in the state, Bally’s Quad Cities leapt 17% to $5.5 million while Par-A-Dice slipped 5.5% to $5 million. Harrah’s Metropolis jumped 13% to $5 million, while Walker’s Bluff made just 800 grand—but in only six days of operation. The Golden Nugget Danville brought home $3 million, Argosy Belle garnered a like amount, up 6.5%, and DraftKings Casino Queen dipped 4% to $6.5 million.

By contrast, Indiana is in an inarguable slump, down 5% from last year and 9% from 2019. The main buoyant is Hard Rock Northern Indiana, which bowed in 2021. Hoosier State casinos grossed $189 million last month, led by Hard Rock with $32 million (-2.5%). Main rival Horseshoe Hammond did $24.5 million (-17%), Ameristar East Chicago made $15 million (-7.5%) and Blue Chip grossed $11 million (-2%), holding its ground better than most. The racinos were powered by Horseshoe Indianapolis and its $25 million (-1%), while Harrah’s Hoosier Park lagged with $16 million (-9%). Acquisition of these tracks by Caesars Entertainment has proven to be a valuable hedge against inroads made on its turf in the northern and southern ends of the state. Speaking of which …

Some of the smaller casinos did surprisingly well last month. French Lick Resort grew 3.5% to $7 million and Rising Star was flat at $3.5 million. Amongst the majors, Hollywood Lawrenceburg was up 2% to $13.5 million and Bally’s Evansville nudged +2.5% to hit $15 million. Dame Fortune was less kind to Belterra Resort ($7.5 million, -1%) and Caesars Southern Indiana ($19 million, -12%), the latter coming as a shock. Slots in Kentucky (masquerading as “historical horse racing”) are clearly having an effect. Sports betting in Indiana was down, with both hold and revenues of $23.5 million plodding despite a steady amount of wagering. It was a close footrace between FanDuel ($8.5 million) and DraftKings ($7.5 million), followed by BetMGM ($2.5 million) and Caesars Sportsbook ($2 million), with Barstool Sports just missing the $1 million cutoff point.

SportsHandle had to crawl pretty far up Soo Kim‘s sphincter to find an upside to the launch of Bally’s Casino in Chicago. Among other things, we learn that early gamblers are avoiding the high-limit games, that “traversing the floors required the kind of dumb luck that players on the nearby slots were hoping for” and that “elevators running between the floors were not operational.” Holy own-goal, Bally’s Corp.! Throw in a non-operational sports book (due to regulatory issues) and you have a casino that’s clearly unready for prime time. Visitation is described as “high if timid,” so this isn’t the grand-slam home run that voter-ejected mayor Lori Lightfoot expected.

On the plus side, table games operation is observed to be “seamless,” the staff’s training evident and the Medinah Temple venue beautiful. Foot traffic is seen to be “constant” although players are characterized as “hesitant,” which makes us wonder if the seasoned gamblers are still heading out of town for places like Rivers Des Plaines. Chicagoans can’t be as casino-naive, overall, as SportsHandle paints them to be. As for the much-Ballyhooed opening, it should have evinced something better than “stage show jitters.” Let’s hope the 2026 debut of Bally’s Chicago is less tentative.

Quote of the Day: “I’ve seen a lot of stupid things but the draftkings ‘Never Forget’ 9/11 Parlay has to be in the top 3”—reaction on X/Twitter to DraftKings‘ abysmal, 9/11-themed parlay.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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