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How Margaritaville impacted riverboat gaming market in its first - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

How Margaritaville impacted riverboat gaming market in its first 6 months

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BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTBS) -

Six months ago the Shreveport-Bossier riverboat gaming market expanded with a new casino on the Red River.

Before the building went up, before the dirt was even turned, Margaritaville developer William Trotter made a strong statement.

"We're going to bring in seven million people to this spot right here," Trotter told former KTBS anchor Ed Walsh in 2011. "So if you add our numbers to their numbers, that's 13 to 14 million people here over a 12 month period."

Because Margaritaville opened in the middle of June, we only have five and a half months of admission numbers from the State Police. But is Margaritaville on the right track?

Since it opened, more than 1.1 million people walked into Margaritaville's casino. That's just 16 percent of the 7 million Trotter predicted, not even close to half way.

As for a combined total, over the same six months a little more than 5 million people entered all six boats on the Red River. Still really far from the 13 million Trotter said would come in a year's time.

But Barry Regula, Margaritaville General Manager, is satisfied with the numbers so far.

"We're able to help grow the market seven percent, which is not where we'd like to be but it's well on its way to what we're hoping to accomplish," he said. "So we're very pleased with the great reception we've had to the opening of our property."

Regula means the market grew seven percent over the same time period in 2012. But for the 2013 calendar year, the market has only grown 2 percent.

"We saw quite a few local people when we initially opened, but we also saw people from regional destinations—Dallas, Little Rock, Houston, Waco, Collin, College Station," Regula said. "People who had not been in the market for several years."

Margaritaville's strongest months in attendance were right after it opened, but it is still second place to Eldorado each month except August when it had the most people playing there.

"Usually the new casino, particularly if it's a new casino with a marquee-type name like Margaritaville, probably for the first year- year and a half is going to be the big player in the market," said Dr. David Hoaas, an economy professor at Centenary.

Hoaas said he expected Margaritaville to perform better in the first six months. He did predict that the other boats would lose players when it first opened, and they did—but now the numbers seem to be leveling off.

"The individuals going to our casinos are much more of a local market than I expected," said Hoaas. "After they've checked it out, after they've seen it, they've gone back to their kind of usual gaming locations."

Not what Trotter said would happen in 2011.

"We're not going to take from their pie," he said. "What we're gonna do, we're gonna grow this market by 12.5 percent."

"They're going to need to attract more people form outside this area," said Hoaas. "They're going to have to spend some marketing dollars elsewhere. They're going to have to get more opportunities for people to do things."

And Regula recognizes that. He said Margaritaville is still on the upward slope. They continue to rev up their advertising in other markets as well as plans for the future.

"Look for more headline entertainment," he said. "Look for more things that focus on the pool and our outdoor dining venue. Look for more specials and events running out of our Margaritaville restaurant."

Regula said the company looks to develop the land around the casino to bring even more options to the area.

That's exactly what Hoaas said the gaming market needs in order to continue to grow.

"Once we have some type of opportunity for families to bring their children here, whereby the parents can do gaming and the children can do something else, like a water park or something like that," Hoaas said. "I think that's really the next step to have any type of large increases in this particular market."

The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau is conducting its own study on Margaritaville's impact on the market in its first six months. That information should be released at the end of this month.

RELATED ARTICLE: New casino boat bound to make waves in the market (June 2013)

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