There’s an old adage about the month of April that says it “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” In a way, this is a fitting description for December as well; not so much to describe the weather, but in terms of business and life activities. I think it’s fair to say we tend to spend the beginning of the month in a constant state of hustle trying to clear away a myriad of responsibilities so we can relax and take the final week or two to be with family and friends.
For many, the “holiday break,” whether it is just a few days or a couple of weeks, will be the longest they spend away from the workplace for the entire year. That fact, combined with the normal feelings most people experience at the end of the year, can lead to a lot of introspection as well as business contemplation once the presents are open, the eggnog is drunk and the cookies are consumed—how did I do over the past year? How did my business perform? What can I do to be better prepared next year?
Well, I can’t answer the first two questions, but maybe I can provide some insight into a couple of major market trends that bear watching into 2016. Consider it a last task before I immerse myself in good cheer and the milk of human kindness…
Let’s start with some good news: it appears the domestic gaming industry is finally starting to shake off the long term impacts of the Great Recession. RubinBrown Gaming Services reports that the third quarter of 2015 produced $9.7 billion in gaming revenues, which set an all-time high for quarterly gaming revenue performance (see story on page 10). A lot of this growth is being generated by the smaller regional markets outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City; indeed, during the last four quarters, more than half of the gaming states and the casinos in them have seen year-over-year increases in quarterly gaming revenues. Fantini Research opined in a recent report that September’s 4.39 percent rise in U.S. gaming revenues highlighted the resurgence of casino industry, marking the best year-over-year comparison since November 2013. Praise was even given to the beleaguered Atlantic City marketplace, where the now “right-sized” casino industry generated 9.71 percent more revenue than last year. Granted this uptick in business may not be as strong as some desired, but any growth is good, and maybe this will convince operators to push their machine replacement cycles.
Further good news for domestic gaming manufacturers can be found in the fact that regional gaming expansion is once again back on the docket, with new casino construction taking place in Massachusetts, New York and a handful of other states, while other jurisdictions such as Connecticut, Rhode Island and Georgia consider casino implementation or expansion.
But as has been the wont of the gaming industry for the past few years where every good market development is partially checked by some bad economic news, this year’s positive domestic gaming results have been tempered by ongoing difficulties in markets outside the U.S. The largest of these marketplaces, Macau, continues to suffer double-digit revenue declines thanks in large part to revised government policies on gaming and visitation. Even the opening of impressive new properties such as Macau Studio City can’t seem to shake Macau from the doldrums (see story page 8). Gaming growth has also slowed in markets such as Singapore, and plans to establish casino gaming in Japan have fizzled.
So, looking back on the past year, the major market trends were both good and bad. I wish they all could have been positive, but every now and then you find a lump of coal in the Christmas stocking, or the most attractively wrapped present ends up being a package of socks.