Gambling at the Kansas Star Casino has declined from a year ago when the opening of its new permanent facility drew heavy interest from bettors.
But new amenities are expected to add to its appeal when they open in coming months, including a hotel expansion slated to open later this month.
Revenue from the slot machines and gaming tables is down to $167 million in fiscal 2014 from $176.3 million in fiscal 2013, according to the casino’s June report to the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission. That represents a drop of $2.1 million in taxes the Kansas Star pays to the state, to $36.7 million from $38.8 million.
A drop-off was expected after the new casino opened and caused revenues numbers to peak, then tail off, said Scott Cooper, general manager. But there are other factors, including a sluggish economy that has hurt casinos nationally.
“I think they’re solid numbers by most measures,” Cooper said. “They are less than what we’ve been running, and I think our business has leveled off. I think there’s a whole bunch of factors there.”
“Generally around the country business is down,” he said. “There are a few pockets showing increases, but not many. It’s really hard to put your finger on one thing. But I think there’s an undertow of reduced employment, and even in Wichita the unemployment rate has inched just a little higher the last few months.”
Monthly revenues in 2014 have been steadily off from their 2013 numbers. The casino earned $14.5 million in gambling revenue in January, down 10 percent from January 2013; $14.8 million in February, down 5 percent from the previous February; $16.4 million in March, down 15 percent; $15.1 million in April, down 12.7 percent, and $15.3 million in May, down 7 percent.
Visits have declined, as well. In January, the number of visitors was down 4 percent from January 2013. In the months since, admissions declined between 10 percent and 19 percent over the same months in 2013.
Cooper said the casino remains healthy.
“You always want more visitors and more revenue,” he said, “but it’s still a strong business.”
The casino’s hotel expansion, which has doubled the number of rooms from 150 to 300, will open this month, Cooper said. No date has been set.
A new convention and meeting center and an adjacent equestrian center are under construction and are scheduled to open around the end of the year. Storms in recent weeks have slowed work on those projects, Cooper said, but all are expected to finish on time.
The convention and meeting center will include board rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and receiving docks.
The equestrian center, originally planned for the south side of the casino featuring more than 600 permanent stalls, is going up on the west side with 200 permanent stalls, although it will have the flexibility to expand to host an event of any size.
The move to the west side was made to eliminate fewer parking spaces. The reduction in stalls allowed the casino to spend money on the convention and meeting center, which wasn’t part of its original plans.
Completion of those facilities should grow the Kansas Star as a regional destination business, Cooper said.