Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Quick Review of the New Hollywood Casino St. Louis

In October 2012 Penn National closed on its purchase of Harrahs in Maryland Heights.  We recently spent a Sunday evening checking out the new owners of the newly renamed Hollywood Casino St. Louis.  It was no secret that the Harrahs now Caesar's corporation has been hit with some hard times.  Evidence of Harrah's deferred maintenance is in abundance. Penn National has it work cut out if it is going to upgrade this property to the 21st Century.  This casino is still in transition with banks of slot machines labeled to be replaced.  The non-smoking section has been reduced by half.  Although Harrahs marketed itself as having the largest non smoking slot section in St. Louis our visits found that this section was an empty wasteland most the time.  Even on a busy Saturday night. Smoking and gambling still go hand in hand.

Missouri Casinos have always maintained a larger slot hold than their neighbors.  And Hollywood Casino is no exception.  Expect tight slots. Midwest players love their penny machines and majority of the slots are pennies at Hollywood.  Competitor Ameristar Casino, across the river, has had a policy of upgrading their slot floor with newer slot machines for the last few years.  We believe that "new" is another word for tight.  We thought the Hollywood Casino slots were tighter then Ameristar and that is saying something.  With the casino noticeably missing patrons, and those that were gambling noticeably complaining about their losses, Hollywood really failed to make a good impression during our visit checking out the new owners. We have never seen so many slot machines were the players quit with payouts of less than a dollar in a very long time.  90.6 aggregate pay out is not going to crack it with competitors such as River City, Casino Queen, and their sister property the Alton Belle offering higher slot paybacks.  We know that Harrahs always ran neck and neck with Ameristar as the casino with the tightest hold in St. Louis but it doesn't seem to be the ideal business model for competition of the local's dollar.   Especially when you are the new kid on the block.    

Hollywood Casino has more than 90 table games. We have dabbled at the craps table with no luck. $5.00 minimum tables are available throughout the week. Young son swears by the blackjack tables. Have not seen any 6-5 tables, though.  We assume that  $15.00 minimum bet will be the norm on Saturdays.  Like Ameristar, Hollywood offered gimmick versions of blackjack. 21 plus 3 handed poker for example.

Hollywood players club transferred Harrahs comp balance to their system.  A very good thing. Apparently you can redeem comps for cash but the system wouldn't let us do it during our visit.

Hollywood has kept the Eat Up! Buffet.  With out a doubt still the premier buffet in the St.Louis area.  However we couldn't help but notice during our lunch that the lines to get the food were longer than ever for some reason.  And frankly some of the food was cold and some of the dishes were empty with no replacement during our visit. They sat there empty the entire time we were dining.  If they kept the same Harrah's employees it has to be the management that needs to work out the kinks

Charlie Gitto's.  Hollywood's version of the venerable Hill restaurant offers an extremely attractive early dining special menu. Most entrees are under $15.00.