EVANSVILLE – After two years of a COVID-induced slump, the City of Evansville’s casino revenue stream is roaring back to health in 2022.
City receipts from Bally’s Evansville stood at nearly $12.5 million through Nov. 30. The two largest chucks of that revenue are from gaming taxes and rent Bally’s pays the city.
When the casino is performing well, the rent it owes fluctuates upward. This year, Bally’s has “had had a good revenue increase,” City Controller Russ Lloyd Jr. said. Rent payments have topped $6.1 million, an 84% rise from last year’s $3.3 million.
Gaming taxes total nearly $4.3 million, while admission tax ($2 million) and interest income ($51,000) make up the rest of city government’s casino receipts.
With a month left in 2022, it appears likely that the city’s total take from Bally’s will top $13 million for the year.
“It would be the best (year) in five or six years,” Lloyd said.
Indiana's first casino opened in 1995 as the Casino Aztar riverboat. It moved to its current land-based spot in 2017. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the removal of admission restrictions. In its early years, patrons could only board the riverboat at designated times.
But the pandemic dealt a blow.
Data from the city controller’s office shows that in 2020, when the casino was shut down for three months due to COVID and had restrictive policies after reopening, total city revenues plunged to $7.45 million. That was a 36.4% drop from 2019.
Last year, the city’s take grew 43.6% to $10.71 million. The anticipated $13 million for this year would represent another large jump.
The city’s casino fund cash balance, as of Oct. 31, stood at just above $22 million. During the pandemic, it had sunk to about $16 million.
The cash balance is so high, Lloyd said, because it contains dollars that are committed to different projects but aren’t yet spent. Those include road repairs and resurfacing, drainage work, tearing town blighted homes, the zoo's penguin exhibit, buses, police vehicles, a fire truck and dispatch center items.
The fund is also used to assist with city construction debt payments, such as on Ford Center.
Of the $22 million cash balance, only $6 million or so is unencumbered, meaning it's not yet committed for any purpose or project, Lloyd said.
Indiana Gaming Commission data for recent Octobers show Bally's Evansville has bounced back, and then some, from COVID doldrums.
In October 2019, the casino's adjusted gross revenue clocked in at $10.6 million for the month. In October 2020, due to the pandemic, the number stopped to $9.68 million. It reached $12 million in October 2021 before climbing to $13.2 million for October of this year.
Bally’s Evansville officials declined a request to comment beyond the numbers.
Data from sources such as the IGC "will give you a good picture of our progress since 2019," Andy Herbertz, advertising and public relations manager for Bally's Evansville.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: City revenues from Bally's Evansville show rebound after COVID slump