'Side bets' caused revenue dip for Jack Cincinnati Casino

GM not worried about one-month blip

CINCINNATI -- Side bets took a bite out of Jack Cincinnati Casino’s revenue in January, but General Manager Chad Barnhill isn’t losing his nerve about testing new game variations to deepen customer loyalty.

“That’s one of the best things that can happen to us, for a guest to walk away winning,” Barnhill said. “Watching someone hit a winner is always exciting. We try to promote that as well.”

The Downtown casino ranked last in Ohio with January revenue of $14.6 million, down 10 percent from one year ago. Barnhill said nearly all of the decline can be traced to increased winnings by table-game customers who took home 80.5 percent of all wagers placed in January – compared to 74.4 percent last January.

Volume was up nearly 4 percent, with $27 million in bets placed at Jack Casino tables. As long as those bets keep rising, Barnhill seems happy to share the spoils.

“We had a few big winners, actually,” Barnhill said. “We had some folks that came in and went on a great run but … a lot of these new side bets allow players to win ... upwards to 10, 15 thousand dollars at a time. We had some of those hit as well. It’s always fun to see our guests playing the side bets.”

RELATED: How Jack Cincinnati Casino aims to use table games to increase customer visits

Jack Cincinnati Casino posted the best year in its history in 2017 with $198 million in total revenue, up 4.6 percent from last year. It remains the Cincinnati market leader with a 23 percent share of the $851 million in 2017 revenue generated by seven casinos and slots parlors with a one-hour drive of downtown Cincinnati.

Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg ranked second with $167 million in 2017 revenue, followed by Miami Valley Gaming in Monroe at $148 million.

Since 2016, Barnhill has been chasing a long-term goal of $20 million in monthly revenue at Jack Cincinnati – that would be a 20 percent increase from its monthly average in 2017.

The company plans new investments in electronic games and table-game variations this year. Its Synergy Table Games area, slated to debut in March, features 28 electronic play stations with 27-inch video screens along with live dealer tables and a DJ booth to make the gaming experience more social. Barnhill said the casino is also developing two new games, building on its own branded version of Blackjack, called JACK JACK.

“We’re obviously very bullish on the property and the market as a whole,” Barnhill said. “Ohio is one of the fastest growing markets in the entire country.”

The Cincinnati market could shift this year with the planned merger of two regional gaming companies: Penn National Gaming and Pinnacle Entertainment. Penn’s Hollywood casinos in Lawrenceburg and Dayton account for 31 percent of the region’s gaming revenue while Pinnacle’s nameplate, Belterra, generated 23 percent of Cincinnati’s total gambling haul. Boyd Gaming Corp. is expected to purchase the Belterra properties as part of the merger transaction, bringing a new casino rival to Cincinnati.

Barnhill said the companies could use their combined loyalty programs to court new customers, but he’s convinced Jack Casino can hold its own by emphasizing its own loyalty incentives and a better gambling experience.

“You have to anticipate that they’re going to come after us a little bit, knowing that our market share continues to be number one,” he said. “We’ve seen growth this year having the best year in property history. You have to assume they’re going to come in and be a little bit aggressive but we’re prepared for that.”

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