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Poker upped fortunes for casino in first quarter

Published 12:06 am Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ameristar Casino’s parent company says it cashed in on the success of the pro poker series tour stop there March 24.

The Heartland Poker Tour, which is owned and operated by Ameristar parent Pinnacle Entertainment and featured two Vicksburg-area players among the top five finishers, contributed to the casino operator’s highest-ever table game share, at 65 percent. The company’s chief administrative officer and executive vice president, Virginia E. Shanks, shared the milestone in a conference call April 30 with financial analysts and industry watchers. The company’s report for 2014’s first quarter was released this past week.

Ameristar is already tops among Vicksburg casinos in terms of average number of table games, with 27 in the year’s first quarter, according to data reported to the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

Jay Bishop, who is on the Rankin County Board of Supervisors, took the top prize of $39,129. Utica’s Elbert Campbell was second and Vicksburg’s Doug Segers finshed fifth.

News of the poker tour’s success took some sting off higher corporate overhead expenses tied to the poker tour and other holdings in the Pinnacle’s footprint. Those totaled $19.8 million in the quarter that ended March 31, up from $5 million from the same quarter in 2013, the report showed. The poker tour was cited for the increased overhead costs, as were costs associated with the Pinnacle-owned Retama Park Racetrack in San Antonio. Overall revenue in the year’s first quarter nearly doubled that of 2013’s first three months, as Pinnacle took in $532.8 million, up from $266.6 million. The spike was attributed to Pinnacle’s purchase in August of Ameristar’s eight casinos the U.S.

The addition of Ameristar’s properties pumped up net revenue for Pinnacle’s southern region holdings by $29.4 million compared to last year’s first quarter.