Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mohegan Sun Casino´s CEO Suggests Gaming Losses Could Be Tied To Cheating!

Mohegan Sun's Take At The Tables A Bust

Mohegan Sun got beat up this quarter — not only with an expected fall in overall profits but at the blackjack tables as well.

The cards fell poorly for the Uncasville casino: Its table games hold percentage — the portion of gamblers' money the casino rakes in — fell to an all-time low of 11.6 percent in three months ending June 30, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority reported Thursday.

With hundreds of thousands of gamblers betting hundreds of millions of dollars at the tables, the hold percentage has almost always hovered around 16 percent. Games like blackjack and craps produce a steady number of winners and losers over the long run, making this spring's dip all the more strange, when it comes to the odds.

"It really is just a string of extreme bad luck that we had at the table games," explained Mitchell Etess, Mohegan's president and CEO. "We have a lot of higher-level players, and we had some of them that were very lucky."

Bad Luck For The House Graphic Table games revenue dipped by 25 percent, from $101 million to $75 million, even though the amount of money in play on Mohegan tables rose 6.4 percent, to $650 million.

That fall, combined with slower slot machine betting because of the economic downturn, led to an 11 percent overall drop in gambling income, from $371 million to $330 million.

It's possible, but unlikely, that a single high-rolling gambler had a string of luck that caused the dip.

"It could happen for a couple of reasons," said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "People could just get lucky or there could be some kind of cheating going on."

Etess rejected the possibility of cheating. Mohegan closely monitors each table and watches trends across all games to determine whether players or employees are cheating the casino, he said.

"We are always concerned about that type of thing, but we don't believe that that's the problem in this quarter," he said.

And it's unlikely players are simply getting better at playing the games, Schwartz said, because if they knew the real probabilities of winning they probably wouldn't be playing.

A spokeswoman for Foxwoods, which does not report table game results, declined to say whether the casino has seen similar fluctuations in its hold percentages.

Ironically, one of Mohegan's own development strategies may be responsible for the dip. Over the last few years, the casino has aggressively courted high-rollers, players with the cash to bet thousands on a single hand.

That strategy backfires when players laying huge bets beat the house repeatedly. But Etess said Mohegan will continue to market itself to such players, citing their business as a major driver in upticks in the casino's reported "drop" — the amount of money gamblers put on the table.

Declines in disposable income and rising gas prices also worked against Mohegan last quarter. Revenues from slot machines fell 5.2 percent to $254 million as fewer players made the drive from Boston or New York to play the machines, the casino's report said.

All told, the casino's net income fell nearly 90 percent to $5 million, down from $45.7 million a year ago.