PHILADELPHIA -- Gross revenue from slot machines in Pennsylvania rose slightly last year, marking the six straight annual increase since the state's first casino opened in November 2006, gambling regulators said Thursday.
The state's 11 casinos brought in nearly $2.5 billion in gross slots revenue last year, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, up 2.7 percent from $2.4 billion in 2011.
The figures were boosted by play at the state's 11th facility, Valley Forge Casino Resort, which opened in March and brought in $36.5 million in gross slots revenue for the year. When comparing only the 10 casinos open in both 2011 and 2012, the slots revenue only rose about 1.2 percent.
Gaming board chairman William Ryan said the totals were the sixth straight increase in gross slots revenue since the first casino opened in November 2006. With the state facing increased competition from new gambling facilities in bordering states, Ryan said, the 2012 figures show Pennsylvania's industry is strong. The state, which taxes slots revenue at about 55 percent, brought in more than $1.3 billion from slots for the year.
"While competition for gaming dollars from bordering states will continue to escalate, the revenue results from legalized casino gaming in Pennsylvania continue to be strong," Ryan said in a statement.
Pennsylvania legalized gambling in 2004 and opened its first casino two years later. It uses casino revenue to support the state budget, public schools, civic development projects, volunteer firefighting squads, local governments and the horse racing industry.
The state did not legalize table games until 2010. While revenue from the newer table games is still growing at a faster pace, the 2012 slots figures show that the once-rapid level of slots revenue growth is beginning to level off. The effects of increased competition in Ohio, New York and other neighboring states -- as well as internal competition in the crowded Philadelphia area market -- has shown in the revenue figures.
In Erie, for example, Presque Isle Downs Casino reported gross slots revenues were down nearly 10 percent last year, to $151.3 million. That facility is facing new competition from across the state line in Ohio, where Horseshoe Casino Cleveland opened in May.
Harrah's Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack, which is in the struggling city of Chester outside of Philadelphia, saw a 3.1 percent decline. Philadelphia's Sugarhouse Casino continued to show strong growth, leading all of the state's casinos with an increase of more than 11 percent last year.
Elsewhere in eastern Pennsylvania, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem reported gross slots revenues that were up 7.6 percent, going from nearly $271 million in 2011 to $291.5 million last year. Other casinos saw an assortment of more modest gains, or slight declines.